Behavior Analyst (BCBA and LBA) at Behavioral Innovations
At Carthage, Marissa Weiler ’14 participated in a variety of student organizations and opportunities, which gave her confidence to explore her passions and eventually led her into a career as a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA).
As a BCBA, Ms. Weiler creates applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The programs are implemented in play-based and assent-based ABA therapy sessions run by behavior therapists/ registered behavior technicians (RBT), and data is collected on their progress. The purpose of the programs are to shape maladaptive or harmful behaviors and replace them with functional communication and social skills, in order to decrease dangerous behaviors and increase functional behaviors and independence.
In addition to being a behavior analyst, Ms. Weiler is also a doctoral student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, where she is pursuing a Ph.D in Behavior Analysis. She gave a presentation on the lack of diversity training within the field of behavior analysis during her first-year residency in her doctoral program.
Ms. Weiler continues to stay connected with Carthage by being a part of several alumni networks and attending campus events. She is also very enthusiastic about sharing information on behavior therapy with the Carthage community.
“My Carthage experience helped me see that I am not limited to what I can do to make an impact if it is something I am really passionate about. I just can’t be afraid to try and fail to figure out what that is.”
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“What I have enjoyed most is seeing the kids I work with make impactful progress in communicating their wants and needs, building and maintaining relationships, and utilizing coping strategies to decrease the likelihood of engaging in harmful behaviors such as aggression towards others, self-injurious behaviors, or property destruction. I also enjoy the relationships I’ve developed with the families I work with and seeing them learn how to best support their children.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“It’s interesting because while at Carthage, I majored in public relations and worked in that field for a few years after graduation. But I realized that it wasn’t the field for me and made a career change. My passion for volunteering with organizations like Autism Society and Special Olympics led me to the field of ABA. I went through extensive training to become an RBT, went back to school for my master’s in ABA, acquired experience hours for my BCBA exam, studied for what felt like forever, and passed my board exam to become a BCBA.
“At Carthage, there was a plethora of organizations, events, interest groups, and opportunities that were open to all, and I remember wanting to try my hand at everything that interested me to help me identify what I truly wanted to do. With that flexibility, my Carthage experience helped me see that I am not limited to what I can do to make an impact if it is something I am really passionate about. I just can’t be afraid to try and fail to figure out what that is.”
How has your liberal arts education benefitted you?
“Behavior analysis requires significant problem-solving skills, which I gained from having a liberal arts education, using the science of human behavior. Every child is different and requires individualized attention and programing, as it would be a disservice to our learners if we put them in a one-size-fits-all learning box. In this field, I am faced with new challenges almost every day, and I’m always excited to work towards solving what I like to call ‘a behavioral Rubik’s Cube.’ While one day I may have to identify the best way to teach a non-verbal child how to request preferred items using an AAC device, another day I have to identify how to reduce a child’s behavior of biting themselves when they are hungry and teach the replacement behavior of asking for food.”
Why did you choose Carthage?
“Aside from the campus being an absolute dream, I was recruited to run on the women’s track and field team. After meeting Coach Steph Domin and the admirable athletes on the team, I knew it was a team I had to be a part of. Academically, I knew I would be set up for success with smaller class sizes and appreciated what the liberal arts curriculum had to offer.”
What opportunities were made possible because of your Carthage experience?
“I gained meaningful leadership experience during my four years of track and field at Carthage, and these leadership skills have been incredibly valuable in most positions I’ve had since graduating. To this day, I apply them as a supervisor for a staff of employees at our center.”
What Carthage professors played a part in your success and how?
“Professor Jon Bruning was always open and excited to hear his students’ ideas, and his laid-back personality always made his classes feel more like a group hang, making us more motivated to participate. I admired that effect he had on the people he was teaching; my position often requires teaching and training of ABA strategies, and I have found that having a laid-back and collaborative attitude fosters comfortability and confidence.”
Were you an award recipient? If so, tell us about the awards you received and what they meant to you.
“I received honors in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and attended the indoor nationals for the 4x400 meter relay.”
What role have the values in Carthage's mission, "Seeking Truth, Building Strength, Inspiring Service — Together" played in your life?
“I strive to seek truth in matters that are most important to me in order to make a well-informed opinion. I work to build strength every day in my staff of RBTs, the children we work with, and the families I meet with. I often find myself coming back to all things Carthage to inspire service in a way I wish I had when I was a student there.”