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Dr. Jeni Ganz was awarded the “Extraordinary Service Award” from the College of Education Dean’s Development Council on Friday, October 28th at the Hilton hotel. Throughout her career, in public education, as a graduate student, and as a faculty member, Dr. Ganz has demonstrated a commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families, to the community, to colleagues, and to students. Below, I note career-long efforts on her part and will highlight efforts she spearheaded at TAMU and in affiliation with the Center on Disability and Development (CDD) at TAMU. Major outcomes of these “above and beyond” efforts have resulted in (a) the development of community partnerships resulting in provision of previously unavailable diagnostic assessments, treatment, and family services for individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the Brazos Valley, as well as (b) the development and delivery of an online program to prepare students to become certified behavior analysts, which increases the capacity throughout the state and beyond to provide evidence-based treatments for individuals with autism. Dr. Ganz is currently a tenured professor of special education at TAMU, where she has worked for 8 years.

One of Dr. Ganz’s most significant contributions to the community and to TAMU students is the Autism Clinic, the founding and development of which she spearheaded. The Autism Clinic began as a partnership between the CDD and the Brazos Valley Rehabilitation Center (BVRC), a non-profit provider of services for individuals with disabilities in the Brazos Valley. Dr. Ganz led the planning for this project beginning in 2009, working with individuals at BVRC and the CDD to see this project to fruition. The clinic began providing services in June 2011 and currently provides assessments to children suspected of having autism, who were previously sent to cities hours away, which had 6-12 month waiting lists. BVRC and Dr. Ganz have sought community and state funding to provide partial or full scholarships for intensive services for children from families that would not be able to afford such services otherwise. Currently, the clinic provides diagnostic assessments, intervention, and parent training to at least 45 families per year; services that were not available to families in the Brazos Valley a few short years ago. Additionally, 5-10 graduate and undergraduate special education and psychology students per year earn hours toward becoming certified behavior analysts and receive mentoring in clinical and research skills.

Students across several programs (e.g., special education, school psychology, counseling psychology) have benefited from Dr. Ganz’s development of a certification program to provide coursework and fieldwork to prepare practitioners to provide intensive, educational services to individuals with autism and challenging behavior in the Brazos Valley and other rural areas in Texas. Upon arriving at TAMU, she led efforts to apply for the department to offer coursework and practica that would prepare students to take the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board exam. This effort, and her 4 years of leadership on the special education program master’s committee, led to the availability of these courses online. By providing coursework online, TAMU is able to educate professionals in far-flung areas. Intensive behavioral services are rarely available in smaller communities, such as in the Brazos Valley. This link between academia and community service providers allows for provision of evidence-based practices in communities which did not previously have such access. Further, by supporting rural graduate students in becoming certified multiplies the impact of the program because those graduates go on to provide fieldwork opportunities to increase the numbers of certified individuals in their areas.

Dr. Ganz’s research agenda has focused on addressing real-life problems for individuals with autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities and delivering that information to individuals who will be directly impacted by it, practitioners and family members. Further, many of her studies have directly involved parents as interventionists. She develops and evaluates interventions to improve communication deficits, which improves quality of life in these individuals. While much of this work has been published in research-oriented journals, Dr. Ganz has focused, throughout her career, on also publishing articles, chapters, and books that appeal directly to family members and practitioners, to enable them to implement evidence-based practices.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Ganz has engaged in a great deal of service for the university, the field, and students. She has consistently volunteered for and accepted appointments for university committee work since arriving at TAMU. For example, she has served as program coordinator for special education (2 years), university liaison for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (7), advisor for student organizations (1-2 years), member of the Institutional Review Board (2), a grant proposal reviewer, chair or member of 4 search committees, chair of the special education Master’s degree committee (4), member and vice chair of the college Council of Principal Investigators (2), and numerous others.

In terms of service to the field, some examples of Dr. Ganz service activities include serving as a grant reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education (6 years), associate editor for 2 journals (1-8 years), consulting editor for 12 journals, advisory member on a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, member of statewide committees for improvement of outcomes for people with ASD (2-3 years each), and she has been called on to represent the university in regard to the Texas Autism Grant Program.

Students have benefited from Dr. Ganz’s mentoring. While at TAMU, she has graduated 6 doctoral students who she chaired or co-chaired and 5 others for whom she served as a committee member. A number of other Master’s and undergraduate students have participated on her research team as well. She is dedicated to mentoring these students to become academics, as is apparent in the large proportion of publications and presentations that are co-authored with students. She has also successfully sought funding to provide support for students.

Dr. Ganz has demonstrated her dedication and commitment to people with developmental disabilities and their families through her work as a bridge between the academic sector and the community, to the field of special education, to the university, and to students.

Written by: Dr. Kimberly Vannest 

CONGRATULATIONS DR. GANZ! The Center is very proud of you