Off-campus students see Carbondale for first time

Nearly half of the students enrolled in a university behavior analysis program had never met their on-campus classmates, professors or visited the campus until Friday.

These students, who pursue their master’s degree as off-campus commuting students, were brought together in Carbondale for the first time by the Behavior Analysis and Therapy program, for one of three semester meetings, which are usually in the Chicago area.

The Behavior Analysis and Therapy program is made available through the SIUC Behavior Institute and is designed for working professionals that are not able to quit full-time jobs to pursue school in a traditional format, according to the SIU Behavior Analysis and Therapy website.

The courses are mainly online, with the exception of a few weekend courses, and are the core of the program along with field experience.

Trinity Services, a human service agency out of Joliet, has been working with the 2009 master’s degree group to allow for students to gain additional graduate education and eventually become certified by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.

Mark Dixon, professor for the behavior analysis and therapy program in Carbondale, coordinated the trip to and the first meeting between many of the program’s students. Dixon also gave lectures Friday and Saturday.

“This is an opportunity for them to all get together and feel like they’re part of the same program,” Dixon said.

He said some students travel from far distances to attend the meetings for the program three times a semester.

Elisa Hill, a graduate student from Vancouver, British Colombia in behavior analysis and therapy, said it’s a great experience to make connections with the classmates she’s never met before.

Hill usually flies into Chicago for the course meetings, but arranged to fly into St. Louis in order to visit the Carbondale campus.

“Even though it was a little extra travel, it’s nice to see we aren’t getting our degree at the Hilton where we sometimes meet,” Hill said. “It’s good to meet the professors and see the university we pay for our education, too.”

Dalina Rangeo, a graduate student in behavior analysis and therapy from Chicago, said putting a face to the names of people she has courses with is great for building camaraderie.

Much of the course work is online and conversations are often through discussion boards or instant messaging, Rangeo said.

“It’s helpful to meet the people behind the words we read,” she said.

Jacob Daar, a doctorate student from Tampa, Fla., observing the behavior analysis and therapy course lab as a teaching assistant, said there is solidarity in getting to actually meet his classmates.

“Discussion boards and forums are always abbreviated conversations, so they don’t always have the kind of synthesis you would get from being able to meet and have discussions,” Daar said.

Making connections and networking are important aspects in any career, said Karl Gunnarsson, a graduate student  in behavior analysis and therapy from Iceland.

He said it benefits students to meet, discuss and observe what others are doing for research in lab.

It not only broadens their horizons but also it may help them to make decisions for their careers, Daar said.

“Getting contacts and even getting a firmer grasp on the idea of how it is to be here at SIU helps those off-campus students in their education and career goals,” Gunnarsson said.

He has been a student at Carbondale since fall 2011 and was part of the welcoming committee for the visiting students.

As part of the welcoming committee, he said he wanted to give the newcomers a taste of all sides of Carbondale as well as a little bit of the college experience.

Dixon said he arranged to start the Saturday meeting with a hike through Giant City State Park after the students bonded Friday night after class.

He said in addition to the course, they got to see the sights of southern Illinois, tour their campus and experience their university.

“It’s a chance to interact and finally feel like part of the whole program,” Dixon said.

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About Tiffany Blanchette

Senior at SIUC majoring in photojournalism and zoology. Can be easily reached at or 618-536-3311 ext. 254.

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