Psychology graduate empowers Indigenous voices, enhances child development

Jaime Red Willow Richards chats with Assistant Clinical Professor Lorraine Becerra on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Jaime Red Willow Richards (right) is graduating in spring 2024 with a Master of Science in applied behavior analysis.


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Jaime Red Willow Richards, a member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribe from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, is on the cusp of graduating from Arizona State University with a Master of Science in applied behavior analysis. Drawing inspiration from her ancestors, she is dedicated to improving the developmental trajectories of children from diverse backgrounds.

Jaime Red Willow Richards smiles at the camera.
Jaime Red Willow Richards

Richards’ decision to pursue a master's degree was solidified through her experiences post-graduation from Creighton University, where she earned a Bachelor in Science in psychology. Working as a research assistant at the University of Utah’s Lab of Olfactory Systems Neuroscience and later as a behavioral health technician at Arizona Youth & Family Services, Inc., she witnessed firsthand the impact of behavioral interventions on shaping positive outcomes.

Deliberately choosing ASU’s MS ABA program within the Department of Psychology, a unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Richards said, “Arizona State University's MS ABA program offered everything I was seeking in a graduate program. The faculty-to-student ratio, along with the quality of instructors and curriculum, was ultimately the deciding factor that led to my application.”

Her capstone project, completed under the guidance of Clinical Assistant Professor Lorraine Becerra, focused on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a transdiagnostic approach to addressing various eating behaviors. 

“I loved the process of curating my capstone and presenting the final product at the California Association of Applied Behavior Analysis (CalABA) Conference this past February,” Richards said. 

As part of psychology’s MS ABA program, students complete 2,000 hours of practicum and graduate with the required training and qualifications needed to become licensed behavioral analysts in Arizona. It’s an edge few other psychology schools offer that positions graduates for success in a high-demand career. Richards is currently accruing her clinical supervision hours as a clinical resident at Ally Pediatric Therapy, refining her behavior analytic skill set and seeing meaningful progress with the clients she serves.

Richards hopes to inspire other Indigenous scholars to pursue higher education and contribute their unique perspectives to the field.

“Before beginning my undergraduate studies at Creighton, my grandmother, Francine Red Willow, shared with me that American Indians make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, making them the minority of the minorities,” Richards said. “With this insight, she encouraged me to be confident in the spaces I enter and to strive towards all aspirations at any level.” 

She also shared advice for current students, saying, “Shifting your perspective from ‘I have to study’ to ‘I get to study’ can greatly enhance your experience in your academic program. Your time in the program is temporary, so I recommend enjoying the progression through each semester and utilizing your professors as resources to support both academic and professional development.

"With patience and self-management strategies, academia can be quite rewarding, presenting opportunities as you work toward your degree.”

A message of gratitude

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the faculty of the MS ABA program. Wopila (translated as "thank you" in Lakota) to Dr. Don Stenhoff, Dr. Lorraine A. Becerra, Dr. Amy Kenzer, Dr. Adam Hahs and Dr. Diana Davis-Wilson for your time in crafting my behavior-analytic repertoire. Additionally, I thank my classmates for your continued support in cultivating a learning environment rich in collaboration. Finally, wopila to my Cansasa (Red Willow) and Richards tiwahe (translated as "family" in Lakota) for being the foundation of my support system.

Jaime Red Willow Richards

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