The Department of Applied Behavioral Science offers a curriculum through which students learn how to examine and address problems of social importance across the lifespan. Students receive training in the application of behavioral science to improve the human condition through prevention and intervention.
The Department of Applied Behavioral Science offers two undergraduate degrees including a 33-hour Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of General Studies (B.G.S.) degree. The requirements in the major for these degree programs are the same. The difference in these two degree programs is the general education degree requirements, which are set by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For example, the B.A. degree requires additional hours of a foreign language. Whereas, the B.G.S. degree requires deeper study in a field outside of the student's major; therefore, students interested in a B.G.S. must either have a co-major or a minor.
Students in this major are required to identify a specialty area within the Department to further hone and apply their knowledge in addressing social problems of particular interest. The Department offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of General Studies degree in six specialty areas. The specialty areas for student concentration are: Adults with Disabilities, Basic Research and Conceptual Foundations (with options in either), Community Health and Development, Early Childhood (with options in education and intervention, autism, and research), Organizational Behavioral Management Research and Practice, and Youth Development and Juvenile Justice.
Prospective majors should enroll in Introduction to Applied Behavioral Science (ABSC 100/101) and Principles and Procedures of Behavior Modification and Therapy (ABSC 304) during their first two years. The content of these two courses provide students with a basic understanding of the field of Applied Behavioral Science, and help students further discern in applying for admission to the major. The requirements and procedures for applying to be admitted to the major are listed below. Major application forms are available in the main departmental office or online. The interest codes are ABSCA-BA for the B.A. degree and ABSCA-BGS for the B.G.S. degree.
Admission to the Major
Admission to the major will be granted to students who:
1. Complete ABSC 100/101 and ABSC 304.
2. Earn a cumulative GPA of 2.3 or higher in ABSC 100 and ABSC 304. The University's course repeat policies apply to the GPA calculation. (See article 2.2.8 at for information about the course repeat policy.)
Major Curriculum Requirements
The major requires 33 credit hours, at least 15 of them at the junior-senior level (i.e., numbered 300 and higher).
The Department's major requires:
(a) An introductory course: ABSC 100/101 Introduction to Applied Behavioral Science,
(b) Three core courses: ABSC 304 Principles and Procedures of Behavior Modification and Therapy, ABSC 308 Research Methods and Applications, and ABSC 509 Contemporary Behavioral Science,
(c) Specialty area courses and electives; and
(d) Two semesters of specialty area practicums that require a weekly class meeting and hands-on training.
- Learning and Communication in Children with Autism Certificate
Students completing this certificate program will learn about communication development in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and learn about behavioral intervention strategies. It is designed to promote interest in undergraduates who may be considering careers such as education or becoming a therapist. An additional goal is to promote awareness of some of the communication challenges faced by individuals with ASD so that participants in the certificate program will become more informed citizens in our increasingly diverse world.What is this certificate?
It’s an opportunity to gain formal recognition for completing courses and experiences specifically focused on learning and communication in children with autism. Completion of the certificate will be noted on student’s transcripts.
Complete the following required courses:
- SPLH 464: Undergraduate Seminar in Communication in Autism
- ABSC 350: The Behavioral Treatment of Children with Autism
And complete one of the following courses in the Speech Language Hearing department:
- SPLH 261: Survey of Communication Disorders
- SPLH 566: Language Development
- SPLH 497: Mentored Research Experience
- SPLH 498: Departmental Honors Research
And complete one of the following (hands-on experiences):
- ABSC 680: Practicum in Advanced Laboratory in the Development of Behavioral Treatments for Children with Autsm
- SPLH 452: Examining Global Perspectives in Speech-Language-Hearing: Study Abroad in Peru
The following faculty can answer your questions:
- Service-Learning Certifications at KU
- Leadership Studies Certification at KU
Academic and Experiential Learning Programs
The Department of Applied Behavioral Science provides students with the opportunity to supplement their general knowledge within the discipline by concentrating in a specialized area of study. Students select a specialty area or option within a specialty area from among those described below. Each specialty area has its own required sequences of courses as there are typically prerequisites for enrolling in courses beyond the introductory level. Additional information about each specialty area is provided with more specific details regarding the student interest areas, practicum process, career and graduate studies opportunities, and supporting faculty members.
Adults with Disabilities
Students interested in working with individuals with developmental disabilities in community settings may have interest in this specialty area. In this specialty area, students are trained to support the development of supportive teaching programs in the community for people with developmental disabilities. Through the coursework, students are taught behavioral-analytic approaches for observing and defining behavior; increasing appropriate and decreasing inappropriate behavior; developing relationships; and legal and ethical issues. Students in this specialty area generally support practicum work with Community Living Opportunities, a community-based residential service agency for adults with developmental disabilities.
Graduates of this specialty area are excellent candidates for positions in residential treatment programs, community human service agencies, and vocational and pre-vocational training programs for people with disabilities. Many students also pursue graduate studies in applied behavioral analysis, special education, or psychology.
Students wishing to complete a senior practicum in Adults with Disabilities should meet with Professor Claudia Dozier.
Basic Research or Conceptual Foundations
Students interested in basic and applied research, and history and theory of applied behavior analysis may have interest in this area. This specialty area attracts students interested in careers for which research and conceptual skills are prerequisites (e.g., science, technology, data analysis) or graduate programs in the behavioral sciences such as behavior analysis, behavioral pharmacology, behavioral neuroscience. The specialty area has two options: basic research or conceptual foundations.
Basic Research Option- Students pursuing the basic research option learn about behavioral processes and research methods, and acquire skills in the experimental analysis of behavior. Students pursuing this option are required to complete an introductory course in statistics.
Conceptual Foundations Option- Students pursuing the conceptual foundations option learn about the historical and conceptual foundations of behavior analysis and acquire skills in historical research and conceptual analysis.
Students interested in completing a senior practicum in this area of Basic Research and Conceptual Foundations should contact Professor Edward K. Morris.
Community Health and Development
The Community Health and Development specialty area in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas helps to prepare students interested in building healthy and well-functioning communities. Students and faculty in this specialty area contribute to addressing a myriad of socially important problems and goals in communities (e.g., substance abuse, violence, education, child and youth development, independent living of people with disabilities, well-being of older adults). The premise for social problem-solving supported by the faculty and students in this specialty area is that problems don't occur or reside within individuals or groups, but rather in the environment in which individuals or groups behave and operate. Therefore, students in this department are trained to systematically examine community-level problems based on the principles and methods of applied behavioral science.
Through the coursework in the specialty area students are trained to analyze community-level problems and goals (e.g., violence, education, substance abuse) to support the appropriate development and implementation of community-level interventions. Students are also provided a service-learning experience in all of the specialty area courses. The course sequence culminates in a two-semester practicum arranged with faculty members and representatives of community organizations or governmental agencies.
Graduates of this specialty area are excellent candidates for positions in public service (e.g., AmeriCorps, Peace Corps) including with community, health, and social service agencies. Graduates of this specialty area also often pursue a career, following graduate study, in an appropriate field such as public health, public policy, law, rehabilitation, community development, urban planning, psychology, social welfare, public health, community health, community psychology, social work, urban planning, and medicine.
Conceptual Foundations Option- Students pursuing the conceptual foundations option learn about contemporary conceptual issues in behavior analysis, its history and philosophy, and its relations with the behavioral, social, and cognitive sciences in general.
Graduates of this specialty area are excellent candidates to pursue careers with research and training centers, or graduate studies in basic and applied behavior analysis (e.g., pharmacology, neuroscience), health, and medicine.
Students having already met the specialty area prerequisites (i.e., ABSC 150/151 and 310/311) are eligible for enrollment in practica. Students wishing to enroll for a fall practicum in the Community Health and Development specialty area (ABSC 690/691) must request enrollment by attending a pre-practicum enrollment meeting held at least one week prior to the fall enrollment period. Students are required to complete the practicum online tutorial, the practicum pre-enrollment profile, and attend the practicum enrollment meeting with the instructors. The tutorial and the profile can generally be completed during the practicum enrollment meeting. Generally, students in the spring practica are those students completing their second semester of the practicum. Students needing to request enrollment in the spring practicum for their first semester of practicum should contact Dr. Watson-Thompson to discuss enrollment options and availability. For more information regarding practicum advising in this specialty area, contact Professor Jomella Watson-Thompson.
Early Childhood Education
This specialty area is for students interested in studying young children and understanding the conditions that promote their healthy development. It includes courses in behavior analysis, child development, curriculum development, parenting, and others that address issues relating to young children. The program culminates in practica that provide students with direct experiences in toddler or preschool classrooms for children with and without developmental disabilities. Students completing this program will gain knowledge and experience in the areas of behavior analysis, child development, developmental disability, education, and intervention. Careers: This area is relevant for students interested in working with young children in home, educational, community-based, hospital, or other therapeutic settings.
Students wishing to enroll for a practicum in the Early Childhood Education specialty area (ABS 675, 676, 677, 678, 680) must request enrollment by attending one of two available practicum sign-up meetings held each semester at least one week prior to enrollment. The meetings are generally held in the Dole 4th floor atrium. Students enrolling in an Educare (ABSC 677/678) or Sunnyside (ABSC 675/676) practicum are required to work in the classroom from 7:30 – 11:30 a.m. or 1:45 – 5:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you plan to enroll in an autism practicum (ABSC 680), please see Professors Claudia Dozier, Pam Neidert one of the sign-up meetings for a description of the practicum (Little Steps). The hours for Little Steps are 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. or 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Prior to attending the practicum sign-up meetings, students should review the timetable and draft a schedule that will accommodate practicum hours. Please be aware that practicum spots are limited and instructors may not be able to accommodate late requests for a practicum.
Organizational Behavior Management
This specialty area is for students interested in studying the application of behavioral principles to people and groups in business, industry, government, and human service settings. This specialty area includes courses in behavior analysis, research methods, and organizational behavior management with a focus on its three sub-disciplines including performance management, systems analysis, and behavior-based safety. The program culminates in practica that provide students with direct experiences improving employee behavior, work safety, or organizational systems within businesses in the community. Students completing this program will gain knowledge and experience in the areas of behavior analysis, management, staff training, and systems-level interventions. Careers: This area is relevant for students interested in behavioral consulting, management, human services, and business.
The OBM practica have limited availability for students. If you are interested in this specialty area, contact Professor Florence DiGennaro Reed. Be prepared to schedule an informational meeting with current specialty area students and an interview with Professor DiGennaro Reed.
Youth Development and Juvenile Justice
This specialty area is for students who want to work with children and adolescents who may be involved formally or informally with the juvenile justice system. It includes courses addressing issues such as juvenile law, developing relationships, counseling and problem-solving, behavioral contracting, and other techniques used when working with school-aged children and adolescents. The course sequence culminates in a year-long practicum during which students work with children and adolescents in the Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program. The practicum is in collaboration with the school district, Douglas County Youth Services, Department for Children and Families (formerly Social and Rehabilitation Services), the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, and the juvenile court. Careers: Graduates with this specialty are excellent candidates for positions as probation officers, counselors in mental health programs, intake and assessment officers, truancy prevention specialists, and treatment personnel in intervention and treatment programs for children and adolescents. Many students also pursue graduate study in social welfare, law, counseling, and psychology.
Students interested in the Youth Development and Juvenile Justice practica, please make an appointment for advising withcontact Professor Jan Sheldon.
Specialty Area Courses
For more information about requirements for our major and specialty area options, please read the Undergraduate Student Handbook.
Related Professional Associations
APA- Division 27 (SCRA)
The Society for Community Research and Action - Community Psychology, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association - is an international organization devoted to advancing theory, research, and social action. Its members are committed to promoting health and empowerment and to preventing problems in communities, groups, & individuals. SCRA serves many different disciplines that focus on community research and action.
APA Division 25- Behavior Analysis
Division 25 - Behavior Analysis promotes basic research, both animal and human, in the experimental analysis of behavior; it encourages the application of the results of such research to human affairs, and cooperates with other disciplines whose interests overlap with those of the Division.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit professional membership organization with the mission 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.
American Public Health Association
The Association aims to protect all Americans, their families and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and strives to assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States. APHA represents a broad array of health professionals and others who care about their own health and the health of their communities.
American Planning Association
APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. We measure our success by the successes of our members and the communities they serve.
Current Directions in Behavioral Science
The site is dedicated to the understanding of behavior from a natural science perspective—that is, a behavior analytic perspective.
The Department of Applied Behavioral Science offers several types of awards annually, including recognition awards for outstanding achievement in the specialty area and a couple of scholarship awards. A summary of recent undergraduate awards provided through the Department are provided below.
For a full listing of financial award available through KU, review KU scholarship opportunities through Admissions.
Scholarship and Fellowship Awards
Helen Jedlicka Mandigo Student Scholarship Fund
The Department of Applied Behavioral Science awards the Helen Jedlicka Mandigo Student Scholarships in Human Development and Family Life, which provides $500 to deserving undergraduate students. This endowed fund was generously established in 2004 by Helen Jedlicka Mandigo, a 1935 graduate of the Department of Home Economics, with a gift of $25,000. The fund provides "scholarship assistance for a deserving undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in the department, and is administered through KU Endowment. The scholarship is based on need and merit, with an emphasis given to an individual who has shown strong potential for future participation in social leadership roles."
- Award Recipients
2016 Shannon Altmeyer, Talley Friessen, Crissy Ryun
2015 Elizabeth Ekis, Katie Griffith, Campbell Haug, Julia Martinez, Krista Newton
2014 Hannah Berc, Shelby Peavler, Mary Ritch
2011 Jen Berman, Marjorie Cooper, Cara Smith, Kate Uxa
2010 Bailey Bosc, Katie Guthrie, Abbigail Long, Laura White, Dana Wible
Helen Jedlicka Mandigo Student Scholarship Fund Application Form (PDF; Self-submit by March 30th)
Harley S. Nelson Award
The University of Kanas offers the Harley S. Nelson Family Scholarship, a $1,500 merit-based award for students studying in the humanities or social sciences. The scholarship was established in honor of the family of KU alumnus John M. Nelson. Dr. Nelson received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in education from KU.
- Award Recipients from the Department
2010 Abbigail Long , Shannon Tierney
Outstanding Achievement Awards
The Department recognizes a graduating senior from each specialty area with an award for outstanding achievement. The award is presented to students during the graduation ceremony for the Department. The award recipients are based on noted academic achievement in a specialty area. For further information about Departmental awards, scholarships, and fellowships (e.g., eligibility, award criteria), contact: Dr. Tom Zane, Chair of the Awards Committee.
Outstanding Achievement Awards for ABS Seniors (PDF; Self-submit your nomination by March 31st)
2011 Recipient Brent
Kaplan and Dr. Reed
Donald M. Baer Award for Outstanding Achievement in Basic Research and Conceptual Foundations
A KU faculty member between 1965 and 2002, Professor Baer (1931-2002) articulated the basic dimensions of applied behavior analysis in the field's most widely cited article. He conducted early research with children (e.g., imitation), helped found the behavioral approach to development (e.g., cognition), and contributed significantly to research design and measurement and to interventions for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. He was president of the Association for Behavior Analysis.
- Recipients of the Donald M. Baer Award:
2018 Londonne Ayers
2017 Will Fleming
2015 Josh Harsin
2013 Marjorie Cooper
2012 Skyler Rueb
2011 Brent Kaplan
Stephen B. Fawcett Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Health and Development
A KU faculty member in the Department of Applied Science between 1975 and 2015, Professor Fawcett is renowned for the application of behavioral science methods to understand and improve health and development in communities. He served as the inaugural Director of the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development (a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre) and as a founding member of the team that developed the web-based Community Tool Box. The criteria for this award include outstanding scholarship, work ethic, and contributions to service learning. We honor those who effectively apply their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom through demonstrable service to community organizations working to promote health and human development.
- Recent Recipients of the Stephen B. Fawcett Award:
2018 Huda Dalaq
2017 Rachel Riedel
2016 Luke Swimmer
2015 Ellie Eastes
2013 Ashley Arenholz
2012 Cara Smith
2011 Gretchen Siebert
2010 Alexis Kruse
Barbara C. Etzel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Early Childhood Education and Intervention
A KU faculty member between 1965 and 1994, Professor Etzel (b. 1926) is renowned for her research on basic behavioral processes (e.g., stimulus-control), as well as for her contributions to research administration, where she served as KU's Associate Dean of the Office of Research Administration and Director of the Kansas Center for Research in Early Childhood Education. She was president of the Association for Behavior Analysis and a role model for generations of women in behavior analysis.
- Recent Recipients of the Barbara C. Etzel Award:
2018 Simone Light
2017 Amanda Curtright
2016 Morgan Henry
2015 Rachel Jackson
2013 Cynthia Livingston
2012 Zachory Johnson
2011 Jessica Danon
2010 Jessica Cox
Todd R. Risley Award for Outstanding Achievement in Autism and Adults with Developmental Disabilities
An ABS faculty member between 1965 and 1982, Professor Risley (1937-2007) was renowned for innovative interventions in early education, among them, arranging environments to promote learning (e.g., incidental teaching). In longitudinal research, he found that the amount parents speak with their children is reflected in their children's linguistic competence, irrespective of minority and socioeconomic status. As Alaska's Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, he created levels of support that allowed people with disabilities to lead meaningful lives.
- Recent Recipients of the Todd R. Risley Award:
2018 Lindsay Aberle; Dalton King
2017 Hannah Weise
2016 Alexandra Hardee
2015 Clara Foster
2013 Jessica Winne
2012 Molly Shireman
2011 Tisha Denton
2010 Bailey Bosc
2011 Recipient Elizabeth
Conley and Dr. Sheldon
Montrose M. Wolf Award for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Development and Juvenile Justice 2011
A KU faculty member between 1965 and 2000, Professor Wolf (1935-2004) was renowned for developing the Teaching Family Model for delinquent youth. Emphasizing social relations and social validity, the model has been adopted nationally and internationally (e.g., at Girls and Boys Town, NE) and was recognized by the American Psychological Association as a "Model Program in Service Delivery in Child and Family Mental Health." He was the first editor of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
- Recent Recipients of the Montrose M. Wolf Award:
2018 Alicia Nicole Morgan
2016 Sarah Barksdale
2015 Julia Martinez
2013 Kara Boelk
2012 Gregory Germann
2011 Elizabeth Conley
2010 Amos Christner
Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organizational Behavior Management Research and Practice
Individuals honored with this award show evidence of applying classroom and research knowledge and skills to improving the performance of employees of organizations with a charitable mission or that serve vulnerable populations, such as individuals with disabilities or sheltered animals.
- Recent Recipients of the OBM Award:
2017 Puteri Ayu Kirana Ahmad Jayaputera
2016 Scott Curry
2015 Rachel Andrews
2013 Jayme Kauffman
2012 Michael Sofis
The Undergraduate Studies and Advising Committee provides oversight of the undergraduate curriculum and consists of at least five faculty members and an undergraduate student representative. Specific duties include evaluating course offerings to ensure consistency with mission of ABS undergraduate program; reviewing and implementing proposed curriculum changes (pending full faculty approval); evaluating transfer credit for applied behavior analysis courses; evaluating and modifying (if necessary) the system of undergraduate advising; and performing other duties as directed by the ABS Department Chairperson, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and/or the University.