Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Invited Panel #149A
CE Offered: BACB
Diversity submission Applying Our Science to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Conversation With the ABAI DEI Board
Saturday, May 29, 2021
5:00 PM–6:50 PM
Area: DEI; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Carol Pilgrim (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Carol Pilgrim, Ph.D.
Panelists: SHAHLA ALA'I (University of North Texas), JOVONNIE ESQUIERDO-LEAL (University of Nevada, Reno), ELIZABETH FONG (Pepperdine University), RICHARD FUQUA (Western Michigan University), RAMONA HOUMANFAR (University of Nevada, Reno), JOMELLA WATSON-THOMPSON (University of Kansas)

This panel represents the second annual DEI Board discussion in a series designed to provide the ABAI membership with: 1) updates on Board activities, 2) opportunities for considering specific topics of relevance to advancing DEI efforts within ABAI and more broadly, and 3) a mechanism for input and ideas from the audience. This year’s panel will focus on the potential contributions of behavior analysis theory and scientific research to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in ABAI and, more generally, in society. After a brief review of the Board’s actions over the past year by Carol Pilgrim, Chair of the ABAI DEI Task Force, DEI Board members will share perspectives on how the science of behavior analysis can be brought to bear in designing DEI initiatives and evaluating their effectiveness. Time for questions and comments from the audience will be included to allow for sharing relevant experiences and lessons learned.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify actions taken by ABAI’s DEI Board over the past year; (2) discuss the application of behavior-analytic theory and research in the design of DEI initiatives; (3) discuss the application of behavior-analytic research in evaluating the effectiveness of DEI actions.
SHAHLA ALA'I (University of North Texas)
Shahla Alai received her B.S. from Southern Illinois University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas. Shahla and her students collaborate with community partners to serve people who are under resourced and marginalized within current societal structures. Shahla is a member of an interdisciplinary lab that includes faculty and students from Woman’s and Gender Studies, Applied Anthropology and Behavior Analysis. Shahla teaches courses on technology transfer, ethics, autism intervention, parent training, behavioral systems, applied research methods, behavior change techniques, and assessment. Shahla has served on several boards and disciplinary committees, most notably the ABAI Practice Board and the ABAI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board. She has published and presented research on social justice, ethics in early intervention, play and social skills, family harmony, change agent training, supervision and the relationship between love and science in the treatment of autism. Shahla has over four decades of experience working with families and has trained hundreds of behavior analysts. She was awarded an Onassis Foundation Fellowship for her work with families, was the recipient of UNT’s prestigious “’Fessor Graham” teaching award, received the 2019 Texas Association for Behavior Analysis Career Contributions award, and the UNT 2020 Community Engagement award.
JOVONNIE ESQUIERDO-LEAL (University of Nevada, Reno)

Jovonnie Esquierdo-Leal is the Program Development Specialist for the Diversity and Inclusion Office at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). She received her M.A. from California State University, Fresno and is currently a doctoral candidate at UNR. Jovonnie’s scholarly interests include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); social justice; Behavioral Systems Analysis (BSA); verbal behavior; and leadership.

ELIZABETH FONG (Pepperdine University)
Dr. Hughes Fong has over two decades of experience in the fields of behavioral health, education and management. Her educational background is in clinical and counseling psychology and applied behavior analysis. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology. She is currently the Associate Director of the MSABA online program and Visiting Clinical Professor at Pepperdine University.

In 2011, Dr. Hughes Fong founded Multicultural Alliance of Behavior Analysts (MultiABA) which was a special interest group of the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). The SIG has since rebranded as the Culture and Diversity SIG and she continues to be a board member of that group. As a doctoral student, she was a "Distinguished Scholar" with the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.  In addition, she was the founder of “Diversity in Behavior Analysis” a section in Behavior Analysis Research and Practice, and served as an Associate Editor for the journal. She has been a reviewer for Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, Behavior Analysis in Practice, and the National Multicultural Conference and Summit.

Currently, Dr. Hughes Fong serves on the Executive Committee for the American Psychological Association's (APA) Division 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women), and Division 35 Section 5 Psychology of Asian American and Pacific Women).  Dr. Hughes Fong is also a member Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board.

In addition to Dr. Hughes Fong activities, she is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and licensed as a Behavior Specialist in Pennsylvania, a trainer in the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism’s Functional Behavior Analysis training, and has received training certificates in the area of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy Childhood Traumatic Grief. She received her level one certification in Pivotal Response Training and Gottman Couples Therapy. Her primary areas of interest are in the application of ABA to diverse populations, telehealth, social validity, health and behavior analysis, and examining child custody and parental competency when a child has developmental disabilities.
RICHARD FUQUA (Western Michigan University)
Wayne Fuqua (Ph.D., BCBA-D) is a Professor of Psychology at Western Michigan University where he served as the Chair of that Department for 14 years. Dr. Fuqua’s research and scholarly interests span a range of topics including autism, health psychology, gerontology, dissemination of evidence-based practice, ethics, and behavioral approaches to sustainability and climate change. His contributions have been recognized with several appointments and awards including: election as a Fellow for the Association of Behavior Analysis; a Distinguished Service Award at WMU; the Jacobson Award from New York State ABA; and a term on the Michigan Autism Council. He has also produced a series of training videos that feature interviews and demonstrations with leaders in behavior analysis (
RAMONA HOUMANFAR (University of Nevada, Reno)
Dr. Ramona A. Houmanfar is Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). She currently serves as the trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, Chair of the Organizational Behavior Management Section of Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and editorial board members of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and Behavior & Social Issues. Dr. Houmanfar has served as the editor of Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, senior co-chair of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Director of the Organizational Behavior Management Network and President of the Nevada Association for Behavior Analysis.

Dr. Houmanfar has published over seventy peer reviewed articles and chapters, delivered more than 100 presentations at regional, national, and international conferences in the areas of behavioral systems analysis, cultural behavior analysis, leadership in organizations, rule governance, communication networks, instructional design, and bilingual repertoire analysis and learning. Her expertise in behavioral systems analysis and cultural behavior analysis have also guided her research associated with implicit bias, cooperation, situational awareness, decision making, and value based governance.  Dr. Houmanfar has published three co-edited books titled “Organizational Change” (Context Press), "Understanding Complexity in Organizations", and “Leadership & Cultural Change (Taylor & Francis Group).
JOMELLA WATSON-THOMPSON (University of Kansas)

Dr. Jomella Watson-Thompson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science, and the Director of the Center for Service Learning at the University of Kansas. She is also affiliated with the Center for Community Health and Development. She attained a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology and a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Kansas. She applies behavioral science methods and interventions to improve how communities address issues related to community health and development. Her research has focused on behavioral-community approaches to neighborhood development, substance abuse prevention, and youth and community violence prevention. Dr. Thompson supports community-engaged scholarship using participatory approaches to address social determinants or factors that may contribute to disparities, particularly for marginalized groups and communities. She has researched the effects of community-based processes and behavioral-community interventions to promote mobilization and change in communities. Dr. Thompson has received numerous funding awards and co-authored articles on community capacity-building, youth and neighborhood development, and adolescent substance abuse and youth and community violence prevention.  She is as an Associate Editor with Behavior and Social Issues and serves on the ABAI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board.




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