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ABA Alumni Spotlight - Frank "Joe" Fitzhugh

May 18, 2023 | Heather LeBlanc

UWF ABA alumni headshot

Joe Fitzhugh completed the MA in Exceptional Student Education with Specialization in ABA at UWF and is currently preparing to sit for his BCBA exam. He holds an undergraduate degree in general studies from Indiana University and is passionate about helping kids progress in their abilities. 

Tell me a bit about where you are currently in your studies and your career.
Currently, I work as an RBT for Golden Steps ABA doing mostly in-home care, as well as some in schools depending on the client and their needs. I’ve also previously worked in a clinic setting, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Currently, I am collecting my hours to sit for the BCBA exam. 

Tell me how you first discovered ABA and what led you to pursue your education in behavior science. 
I first learned about ABA from being around my brother and nephew who have autism. When I was searching for a job around the time of Covid, an old psychology teacher reached out to me about a technician job at a center. I went for the job but fell in love with ABA.

What made you interested in getting your ABA degree from UWF?
My boss then encouraged me to apply to UWF for my master’s degree. I took the opportunity and haven’t looked back since. It was also a big selling point that UWF’s ABA program didn’t charge out-of-state tuition.

Tell me more about your experience in the UWF ABA program. 
What stands out to me the most is definitely the professors. I appreciated that the instructors were responsive and engaging—you could tell they cared about their students’ success. At one point, I was having trouble navigating the ethics of a particular situation with my then-supervisor and was unsure if I wanted to continue in this field. My instructors helped guide me through the questions I needed to ask myself to determine what was most important to me and where to go next. At the end of the day, I followed my passion for the field and helping others.

Do you have any particular plans or aspirations after receiving your BCBA?
I’d really like to get into more research. I currently DJ on the side and I’m passionate about music. I would love to explore the potential benefits of music therapy with clients.

What unexpected things has ABA added to your life?
I am more calm and more patient with my daughters. My mother has even noticed the changes in my parenting style and commented on my newfound calmness and patience. 

What is your favorite aspect of ABA? 
The most rewarding aspect of ABA for me is seeing the kids' faces light up when they finally understand something, such as tying their shoes. It is an incredibly beautiful thing to witness.

What would you tell someone who is interested in getting the same degree? 
To do it. I know grad school and the time, studying and research required can seem daunting, but it is the most fun, challenging and rewarding decision I’ve made. I tell people to jump in all the time. Get it done. The sooner you get it done the more time you’ll have in the field.