New education faculty member hired

JSC’s Education Department will welcome a new faculty member in the fall to coordinate JSC’s current Applied Behavior Analysis [ABA] program and begin work on a new early childhood special education program.

Audrey Hoffmann, who is currently the assistant clinical director at Utah State University, Logan’s Behavior Support Clinic, will finish up her doctorate degree before she arrives at JSC in the fall.

Assistant Professor of Education and Department Chair Kathleen Brinegar says Hoffmann will mostly be working with graduate students within the Board Certified Behavior Analyst [BCBA] program to help them work toward their BCBA licenses once they obtain their graduate degrees.

“She will be advising current and incoming BCBA students, and she will be working closely with a lot of local mental health agencies [like] Washington County Mental Health, Lamoille County Mental Health to coordinate the BCBA program efforts,” said Brinegar, who adds the early childhood special education program is likely to have both a graduate and undergraduate track for current and prospective JSC students.

Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Hannah Miller, who served on the search committee chaired by Assistant Professor Dr. Rob Schulze, says she didn’t know what to expect at first when searching for a candidate who specialized in ABA and early childhood education. She says Hoffmann was the standout among the applicants.

“[Hoffman was] everything we were looking for,” said Miller. “The institution she was coming from in Utah State had a lot of different programs, but she had developed her own research directions and was doing cooperating work with organizations in the community that weren’t associated with her school.

“She really communicated that she was committed to this work as a genuine, intellectual curiosity that she had,” Miller added. “It didn’t sound like it was just a job to her; it sounded like it was something she though could help make education and the experience with children better.”

Changes to BCBA regulations prompted the education department to search for someone like Hoffmann to maintain JSC’s BCBA program, which Brinegar says is important for Vermonters looking for a face-to-face program rather than online. “If we wanted to maintain that program, which is a really big asset to the state of Vermont [because] there are not a lot of accessible BCBA programs to Vermonters,” she said. “If we wanted to keep that program and if we wanted to keep it accredited, we had to hire somebody who has that certification.”

Brinegar says Hoffmann’s expertise with early childhood education will help prepare JSC’s education students develop a more diverse and inclusive skill sets for their classrooms.

“We knew we wanted to get into the preparation of early childhood educators, but we didn’t want to start a straight early childhood education preparation program,” Brinegar said. “I think it’s a good way of showing how our department wants to make sure that we are thinking about not just classroom teachers, but special educators, applied behavior analysis and all of the different elements that help the school function.”

Although Hoffman will need time to adjust to new state policies and program requirements, Miller says she will be able to work within those policies and add her own ideas to her work as a marriage between state policy and her creative process.

“I would imagine that – judging on what we know from Audrey – she has a lot of great ideas,” said Miller. “There’s still a lot of creative space in a program for a director to decide what ideas to prioritize and in what sequence to put the courses so that students can really have ideas that build on each other and what kinds of experiences they have in the field that can help them meet those requirements.”

Even with a robust research agenda, Brinegar and Miller say it’s Hoffmann’s communication abilities and community-mindedness that immediately piqued the interest of JSC’s education department.

“She was very efficient at helping us understand her ideas and the research that she did and what she might bring to her teaching,” said Miller, who also said Hoffmann wasted little time discussing her interests during their initial meeting. “That’s great when you hear somebody explaining what they do and you understand.”

Among Hoffmann’s chief interests is to start a mental health clinic and offer services to Johnson and Lamoille County community members, according to Brinegar. “As she begins the clinic and is doing research, she wants to bring students in as co-researchers. That was really important to give students those sorts of opportunities.”

Hoffmann will begin her work in the fall for the last academic year JSC will have before becoming one-half of Northern Vermont University. Such changes to the education department, Miller acknowledges, will add a fresh perspective on their current operations.

“I’m excited to have a new faculty member because I think in a place that has such small departments, a new person can really change the personality of a department,” she said.

As a new faculty member, Miller hopes to provide a similar experience for Hoffmann as she had last fall. “The department here has been so kind and patient with me in helping me learn the new systems and how things work and helping me figure out how to do things here, so I hope to return the favor,” she said.