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Mount Awarded Grant for Innovative Approach for At-Risk Students

Nicole Patterson

Mount St. Mary’s University has been awarded $273,200 in funding from the state of Maryland through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER Fund). The GEER Fund Innovative Approaches to Connecting with Students is given based on a unique or innovative approach to engage students, teachers and school communities that addresses academic accessibility as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is part of the CARES Act,” explained Dean of the School of Education Barbara Marinak, Ph.D. “During the pandemic, students with autism, disabilities involving self-regulation and emotional behavioral disorders are among the most at-risk for academic failure,” she said, citing 2020 research from McCain-Nhlapo.

The Mount’s Applied Behavior Analysis/Technology Facilitation (ABA/TF) proposal included a partnership with Frederick County Public Schools designed to meet the needs of at-risk students, their teachers and families during the post-pandemic.

The ABA/TF program includes a cohort of graduate students training in applied behavior analysis and a cohort of graduate students training in technology facilitation paired as inter-disciplinary collaborators utilizing a Participatory Action Research model.

“The focus of the grant is to address the needs of at-risk students with an innovative collaboration made visible by the pandemic. This initiative pairs an applied behavior analysis (ABA) candidate with a technology facilitation candidate so the ABA candidate can learn how to best facilitate interventions remotely and the technology facilitation candidate can learn how to support a very complex intervention such as ABA,” said Marinak. “I’m not sure there is a more complex framework than ABA. We see it as a win-win for both professionals going forward.”

Funds from the grant will be used to support 3 Zoom rooms, purchase specialized software for the ABA/TF program and hire an ABA director and an instructional technologist.

Once launched, the ABA/TF program will be completely online and remote.

Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics Kraig Sheetz, Ph.D.; Professor Emerita of Education Carolyn Cook, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Instructional Design and Delivery Laura Corbin Frazier, Ed.D.; Assistant Professor of Special Education and Literacy Ernest Solar, Ph.D.; Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology Jonathan Slezak, Ph.D.; Grants Manager Kathy Criasia and Senior Accounting Manager Nichol Moeller also worked on the grant.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded grants to governors for the purpose of providing educational agencies, institutions of higher education and other education related entities with emergency assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic through the CARES Act. The Competitive Grant application was submitted on July 29, 2020, and reviewed by the Governor’s Office, the Maryland Department of Budget and Management and the Maryland State Department of Education. The Mount was notified in late August and received Maryland Higher Education Commission approval in early November.

Nicole Patterson