June 18, 2019


College of Education building on the MSUB university campus


MSU Billings earns 21st worldwide accreditation of education program



University Communications and Marketing, 657-2266

ABAI sealMSU BILLINGS NEWS—The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Accreditation Board has awarded Montana State University Billings’ Master of Science in Special Education Advanced Studies Applied Behavior Analysis (MSSED ABA) degree program a five-year accreditation. Only twenty other master’s programs have been recognized with this honor internationally.

Accreditation through ABAI provides prestige and credibility in seeking funding resources; accreditation also creates the incentive for relevancy and currency of faculty, programs and courses to best serve employers, which will benefit the Billings community, the state of Montana and the Northern Rocky Mountain region and beyond.

“Having the opportunity to support the College of Education ABA program from its inception through accreditation has been one of the highlights of my 14 years as dean of the college,” shares Mary Susan Fishbaugh, who has a doctorate in education. “The need for the program has increased over time as more and more educators seek preparation and support in meeting the needs of their students. Dr. Young-Pelton demonstrates her dedication to the program on a daily basis. Dr. Anna Young joined our faculty two years ago.  Her experience as a practicing behavior analyst has further strengthened the program.  The college is proud of this specialized accreditation.”

Behavior analysis focuses on understanding the behavior of individuals and “how biological, pharmacological, and experiential factors influence the behavior of humans and nonhuman animals” (ABAI).

The need for an ABA program at MSU Billings became apparent in 2008. In 2009, the first course in applied behavior analysis was offered with 20 students enrolled. Since then, more courses and internships have been added and student capstone requirements for research were increased.

Today, over 75 students have graduated with the MSSED ABA, and many others have completed BCBA certificates in addition to their Master’s degrees. Twenty-five theses have been publicly defended and archived on topics ranging from increasing verbal behavior and other desirable skills to decreasing resistance to transition in classrooms. Two students have traveled out-of-state to present at national conferences and three students have published articles alongside their professors.

“Accreditation from ABAI has been my goal since we started this program,” shares Dr. Cheryl Young-Pelton, professor of Special Education. She added, “It demonstrates we are emphasizing the science of behavior and not the most recent ‘fad.’ We want this program to promote high-quality, ethical practitioners (Board Certified Behavior Analysts or BCBAs) who will promote the science of ABA and improve lives.”

The pursuit of accreditation reinforces MSU Billings’ commitment to continuous improvement, innovation and scholarship. The accredited status will require an ongoing effort to provide updated technology, increasing faculty from two to three in ABA, and additional resources for students, including a fully operational on-campus clinic.

The Association for Behavior Analysis International is the primary organization for the philosophy, science, application and teaching of behavior analysis. Its mission is to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

For more information, contact Professor of Special Education Cheryl Young-Pelton at 406-657-2195 or cyoung@msubillings.edu.