Alumna named president of Arkansas Association for Behavior Analysis

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Alison Karnes with her children.

Alumna Alison Karnes developed a passion for helping others as a young girl. She thought everyone was wired that way until she had her first career-focused interview.

The company’s CEO surprised her by asking, “Do you want to change the world?” She laughed and said, “Everyone, right?” He smiled and assured her, “No, they don’t.”

“I’ve revisited that moment many times,” Karnes said. “It reminds me that the work I do every day can have an impact, no matter the obstacle or the size of the task.”

She is now the director of clinical services and a board-certified behavior analyst at SageWay Behavioral Health in Arkansas. Therapists primarily work with children diagnosed with autism, using applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. They help clients with various skills like communication, independent living, play and hobbies, and working through deregulated behaviors. “We do most of our work in an individualized, game-based setting, which makes learning and practicing new skills fun,” Karnes said.

She feels fortunate to work with clinicians who are dedicated to improving the experience of their clients around the world. “From dance parties in the game room to trick or treating, singing silly songs and more, our practitioners go above and beyond to make sure our clients have fun while they learn. I love it be part of that,” she said.

This year, Karnes was named president of the Arkansas Association for Behavior Analysis after serving on the board for three years. She helps plan the organization’s annual conference, collaborates with other practitioners to promote high-quality standards of care, and coordinates continuing education opportunities for members and the behavior analytic community in Arkansas.

At SageWay, Karnes also oversees the clinic’s supervision program for graduate students training to become behavior analysts. It feels like a full loop moment. Alison graduated from the U of A twice. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2009, then earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Adler University. She returned to the U of A in 2011, earning a Ph.D. in curriculum and teaching with a focus on behavior analysis and autism.

Mentoring university students sparked a new dream. Karnes would like to teach in higher education later.

“The longer I’ve been in this field, the more passionate I am about teaching future behavior analysts,” she said. “One day, I hope to have the opportunity to do so.”

To know more Dean’s Spotlight Stories and other news from the COEHP community, visit the College’s online magazine, the Coworker. the College of Education and Health Professions provides advanced academic degrees as well as professional development opportunities and learning communities to serve the education and health systems of Arkansas and beyond. Visit the College website for more information on special education degrees.

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