Oct. 21—Missouri Southern State University officials and educators on Thursday cut the ribbon on the campus' new ACACIA Center for Applied Behavior Analysis, which will serve families of children with autism spectrum disorder and other behaviors.
The facility will offer behavioral, educational and social services to children while giving Missouri Southern students a hands-on learning environment and work experience in the education and psychology fields, said Ayla Schmick, its director.
The ACACIA Center — which stands for acceptance, community, academics, commitment, inclusivity and advocacy — is named for the acacia tree, native to areas in Africa and Australia and a highly adaptive and hardy species, said Lorinda Hackett, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"The center is deeply rooted, like the acacia tree, as the work in applied behavior analysis will produce twofold benefits: one for our students who are receiving their credentials and the coursework and the academic preparation in applied behavior analysis, and for the children of our community served by the center," she said. "An environment of perseverance and adaptability will be leveraged to maximize an individual's capacity to bloom where they are planted."
The center, planned through a collaboration of the MSSU Lion Cub Academy and the psychology department, is located in the former Child Development Center in Taylor Hall. It was funded by grants and donations from the Missouri Department of Social Services, Freeman Health System, Ozark Center and the MoExcels initiative from the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development.
MoExcels provides per-year funding for the development and expansion of employer-driven education and training programs and initiatives to substantially increase educational attainment, according to the state higher education department.
"We believe that this facility really gets close to the heart of MoExcels because it deals with the preparation of not only the clinicians that will deal with autistic individuals, but also will lead to the empowerment of those individuals so their abilities are maximized and their opportunities are increased," said Gary Nodler, a former state senator from Joplin and a current member of the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
The public is invited to tour the ACACIA Center at an open house from noon to 5 p.m. Friday. Learn more at acaciacenter.mssu.edu.