Q+A with Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group Past Chair Dr. April Kisamore

Pictured: Dr. April Kisamore

This month I am excited to collaborate with ABAI’s Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group (VB SIG) to bring to you a Question & Answer section with the VB SIG’s past chair, the amazing Dr. April Kisamore. The VB SIG is a great group to network with other VB researchers, clinicians, and students as well as keep updated with current and past VB research. Special shout out to Dr. Andresa DeSouza, VB SIG’s Dissemination Coordinator, for putting these questions together!

Dr. DeSouza (AD): Tell us about your trajectory in the VB-SIG?

Dr. Kisamore (AK): I feel like I’ve been involved in the VB SIG for a very long time. I was nominated for the position of Treasurer at the annual VB SIG business meeting in May of 2011. I remember I was working on my dissertation and felt there was no way I could take on such an important job at the same time. Now we can’t have graduate students involved as council members—things sure have changed over the years. I was re-elected as Treasurer in 2014 and continued in this role until elected as Chair in 2016. During this time, I worked with a number of different people in the other council positions and also with two prior Chairs (Traci Cihon and Judah Axe). When Judah completed his final term as Chair, I took over and served as Chair from 2017 through 2020. We elected a new Chair, Dr. Danielle LaFrance, at last year’s VB SIG Business Meeting, and I’ve been serving as the Past Chair until the Chair-Elect officially takes over the role in May.

AD: How would you describe the VB-SIG of 10 years ago in comparison to today’s?

Dr. Kisamore presenting with the VB SIG at ABAI 2015

AK: The VB SIG was much different 10 years ago than it is today. When I first joined the VB SIG, we met regularly for phone meetings where we hashed out the VB SIG by-laws, there were only 7 council positions, and we were still developing our student grant award. Since then, our meetings have shifted from phone calls to video conferences in which we discuss how we can have a greater impact on the community at large with respect to disseminating Verbal Behavior; we’ve created 5 new council positions including the Grant Competition Coordinator, Membership Coordinator, Professional Awards Coordinator, Dissemination Coordinator, and Student Liaison; and we developed 4 new awards including the Jack Michael Award, Clinical Supervisor in Verbal Behavior Award, Excellence in Teaching Verbal Behavior Award, and the Early Career Researcher Award. One focus of the VB SIG has always been on the dissemination of verbal behavior. To that end, our website has gone through numerous iterations over the years as we’ve developed and grown our online presence to include not only a website but also a Facebook page. As we continue into 2021, the VB SIG will continue its dissemination efforts by co-hosting mini-conferences and webinars to further engage the community in learning about verbal behavior. Additionally, the VB SIG formed a student group in 2014 as a way to encourage more student activity in verbal behavior. The student group has engaged in a lot of activities over the years including hosting symposia at ABAI, assisting with the annual VB SIG business meeting, interviewing VB researchers, and contributing to VB News. In conjunction with the council members, the student group is now also working on addressing issues of social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

AD: What do you think to be the biggest contributions of the VB-SIG to the dissemination of behavior analysis and Skinner’s verbal behavior?

AK: A major focus of the VB SIG has always been on the dissemination of verbal behavior. The first big contribution we made toward this goal was to create an engaging and information-packed website where members and non-members can gather information about the history of verbal behavior, learn about the VB SIG, access the most current issue of VB News, become a member of the VB SIG, learn about the student and professional awards we support, access information about university programs that offer courses in verbal behavior, and also find other resources (e.g., related organizations, videos). The second big contribution we made toward this goal was reviving the ABAI symposia for student award winners. For the past couple of years we have asked our award winners to present their research at the annual ABAI convention. These symposia not only give students an opportunity to share their research, but they also give the VB SIG a platform to share recent verbal behavior research with ABAI attendees. The third big contribution toward dissemination was creating a position for a dissemination coordinator. The role of this individual is to assist directly in creating opportunities for us to reach wider audiences. As noted above, the VB SIG will begin co-hosting mini online conferences and webinars on verbal behavior later this year. These online events will make it possible for a wide variety of individuals to access verbal behavior content. Additionally, Continue Education Units (CEUs) will be available for those who need them and students will have access at a discounted fee.

VB SIG Members at 2014 ABAI Conference

AD: As you step out as the chair of the VB-SIG, what do you leave behind and what do you take with you?

AK: I think my greatest accomplishments as Chair of the VB SIG were supporting the development of the role for the dissemination coordinator and reviving the student award winner symposia at ABAI. Each of these events truly ensures the VB SIG is able to accomplish its goal of disseminating verbal behavior to a wider audience. As I wrap up the end of my year as Past Chair for the VB SIG, I reminisce about how I will miss attending regular meetings with the other council members and listening to and fostering to their innovative ideas for growing the VB SIG, and further disseminating verbal behavior. I have no doubt, however, that with the influx of new council members, there will be even larger and better changes in the VB SIG initiatives, and I look forward to hearing about them as a regular member of the VB SIG.

AD: If you could wave a magic wand and have all your dreams come true, what would the VB-SIG be like in 5 years from now?

AK: There would be a fivefold increase in membership! Seriously though, it would be great if more people become members of the VB SIG. The council works very hard at providing support for students and professionals in the field. The VB SIG’s ability to support those endeavors comes from its membership. AND then more people would be available to help out with the dissemination efforts. I do think the online conferences and webinars are a step in reaching a wider audience and increasing membership. I also hope to see some VB SIG swag available for purchase at conferences in the future because I’d like to rock a fun VBism t-shirt.

Check out the VB SIG’s website and Facebook page!