By Ben Muray
At Baylor, you don’t have to search far to find students conducting innovative research in their respective fields. This week, the Graduate School sat down with Rachel Scalzo, a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Psychology at the Baylor School of Education. Scalzo recently received the James L. Kopp Memorial Scholarship for her dissertation, “The Analysis of Behavioral Indicators as a Measure of Satiation.” Her research focuses on the behavioral indicators children with special needs exhibit when they have become satiated or satisfied with their favorite toy (the iPad). Scalzo explains that these children often engage in “challenging behavior” (aggression, screaming, crying) when they are unable to play with the iPad due to their inability to express desires verbally. Scalzo’s study allows the children to play with the toy until they no longer want to use it. She then analyzes the child’s behavioral indicators of satiation and tests to see if they exhibit challenging behavior once the teacher begins a lesson.
Scalzo is one of only three candidates chosen for the scholarship and she is the first Baylor student to ever be selected. As a longtime member of the Texas Association for Behavioral Analysts, she had seen the scholarship awarded to people in previous years and decided that her dissertation would provide a good opportunity for submission. Winning the scholarship means that a portion of Scalzo’s expenses will be covered as she travels to San Antonio to present her research at the Applied Behavior Analysis International Conference.
Although her academic path was initially uncertain, Scalzo knew one thing: she wanted to help people. After earning a degree in Psychology from Siena College, she went on to Stony Brook College in Albany where she earned her Masters in Social Work. During her time there, she began working for Autism Speaks—a non-profit organization that sponsors autism research and outreach activities. It was here that she developed a passion for helping children with disabilities. Although she had found her calling, Scalzo felt that she hadn’t yet acquired all of the necessary skills to teach children the way that she wanted. So, eager for a change of scenery (preferably one with a warmer climate), she began applying to schools in the South. After one visit to Baylor, Scalzo says she knew it was the place for her.
As for her time at Baylor, Scalzo says, “It’s been an amazing experience. The faculty have been so supportive of anything I wanted to do in terms of research, funding, and conference attendance. I’m also deeply indebted to my mentor, Dr. Davis, for everything she’s taught me. Between the Department and working at the Baylor Clinic for Assessment Research and Education for assessment research and education, I couldn’t say enough about how much Baylor means to me.” Rachel will graduate in August. She hopes to become a professor and teach others how to work with disabled children. When she’s not conducting research or attending conferences, Scalzo enjoys golfing and playing with her dog.