(BA, Psychology, ’08; MA, Marriage & Family Therapy, ’11; Advanced Certificate, Applied Behavior Analysis, ’15)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite professor at Hofstra was Dr. Mary McDonald. She was my professor for every class in the Applied Behavior Analysis program at Hofstra. She played a major role in my career decision as she is so passionate about applied behavior analysis. Dr. McDonald is one of the most knowledgeable professors I’ve met at Hofstra. She cares a great deal about the field and helping her students. Even post-graduation, she’s still available through email and text to answer my questions and offer advice about the field we work in.
- What was your first job after graduating Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduating with a bachelor’s degree was a Medicaid service coordinator for an agency that serves adults with developmental disabilities. While working at this agency, I was enrolled in Hofstra’s Marriage and Family Therapy program. At first, I started the job as I had an interest in helping families but soon grew passionate about working with people with special needs. I learned a great deal about all the resources available to those with special needs and ways to help them work toward their independence.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is applied behavior analysis. The majority of my experience has been with children and adults with developmental disabilities and maladaptive behaviors. I held various roles at agencies that served individuals with developmental disabilities, mainly adults, but I always knew I wanted to work with children. I started out as a Medicaid service coordinator, which involves referrals and linkage to services. I found the most rewarding part of the job to be the time I spent with the individuals on my caseload. I learned of various roles at my agency and decided I wanted to work with people with special needs as a clinician. I soon began researching ways to advance my career and if this would require more education. In the past, I heard of applied behavior analysis and had taken a psychology course (behavior modification) at Hofstra that I found very interesting. It became evident that in order to grow in the field and open up new opportunities I needed to become a board-certified behavior analyst. I quickly enrolled in the advanced certificate program at Hofstra after receiving advice from Dr. Mary McDonald. It is a requirement of the certification board that you receive 1,500 supervised hours in a role where applied behavior analysis is practiced. Soon after enrolling in the advanced certificate program, I obtained a position as a behavior intervention specialist at a group home for adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral issues. I worked as a behavior intervention specialist for almost three years while working toward my certification and license as a behavior analyst. Once obtaining the certification and license, I finally landed a position working with children. Currently, I work in a foster care facility that serves children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and problematic behaviors.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Hofstra has such a variety of interesting courses. I would advise to take different courses and find what interests you most. Don’t rush or enroll in a major for the wrong reasons. Talk to your advisors and professors, find your passion, and investigate what is going on in that field today. There are so many different opportunities for a career with an education from Hofstra!
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- How have your Hofstra degrees helped you in your career?
My degrees from Hofstra have opened up many doors with agencies that serve individuals with special needs. All my experience and education have made me well- rounded in this field. They have also prepared me for the different aspects of my career. Having a background in both family therapy and applied behavior analysis is helpful in not only treating individuals with special needs but also in having empathy toward their families.
- What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is playing a part in helping the child or family reach their goals. To see a child that was so afraid of medical exams, he or she would run away at the sight of a nurse but now sits through a full exam is an extremely rewarding feeling. To train a 17-year-old to be independent with activities of daily living skills is amazing progress. To see a child that was not able to leave the house because he was injuring himself and others but now has dinner at a restaurant with his peers is incredible. All the instances where the stress and hard work finally pays off for all the parties involved are the best parts of being a behavior analyst.
- How did you know you wanted to work with the special needs population?
I knew I wanted to work with the special needs population after my first job in the field. I can’t remember a specific moment but I know one day I felt like I found my calling. I became interested in all the aspects of serving this population and the mission of various agencies. I’ve found this to be a rewarding field and very much enjoy helping others.
Jennifer Siegel graduated from Hofstra University with a BA in psychology in 2008. She enrolled in Hofstra’s Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program the same year. While attending graduate classes, Jennifer began her career working with the special needs population as a Medicaid service coordinator for a small agency on Long Island. Jennifer held various positions within this agency over the next year and found the time she spent with children and adults on her caseload to be the most rewarding.
After graduating with an MA in marriage and family therapy, Jennifer moved to Brooklyn in search of new opportunities. She held another Medicaid service coordinator position for a larger agency in New York City called United Cerebral Palsy of NYC. With a desire to work with individuals in a clinical position, she began researching ways to advance her career. It became apparent that becoming a board certified behavior analyst would allow her to grow within the field. Jennifer contacted the director of the Advanced Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis program at Hofstra and quickly enrolled. One of the requirements of becoming certified was to obtain 1,500 supervised hours in a position where applied behavior analysis is practiced. Jennifer made the decision to move back to Long Island and obtained a position as a behavior intervention specialist in a group home that serves adults with developmental disabilities. She worked full time while attending classes at Hofstra for the next two years. Jennifer gained significant experience by working with different individuals and their families to treat problematic behaviors. In November 2015 she passed the certification exam and became a board-certified, New York State-licensed behavior analyst. She now works for SCO Family of Services, a foster care agency that serves children and young adults ages 5 to 21 with developmental disabilities and intense behavioral issues. With her degrees and new license, Jennifer has found that there are endless possibilities for growth in the special needs field.