University of South Florida

Innovative Education


Online aba alumni spotlight headshot of Kevin

From Patient to Practitioner: Kevin Kent’s Mission to Make a Difference Through Behavior Analysis

By the time he was three years old, Kevin Kent had been through six open heart surgeries. 

After flatlining in a regional hospital, he was resuscitated in a helicopter while being airlifted to a special children’s hospital. It was there that doctors discovered he had an Arnold-Chiari brain malformation that was causing a blockage in his heart. 

Though the surgeries were lifesaving, recovering from them was challenging. First, there was the physical healing. But there were other recovery issues, too. For example, he could no longer do things that came easily to him before. Things like walking and fine motor skills were harder than ever. His memory was affected, too. 

Kent was fortunate that his recovery plan included sessions with a team of dedicated behavior analysis professionals. They helped him learn how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, play memory games, and improve his walking skills. 

Fast forward 29 years and Kent is now giving back to kids in the same way he was helped as a child – he’s now a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), working with children, some of them struggling with the same challenges he overcame.  

Initially, Kent planned to be a physical therapist. He was enrolled in a terrific PT program at Georgia Southern University but decided to make a career pivot once a faculty member there introduced him to applied behavior analysis.

“Dr. Andrew Bulla came into my Intro to PT class and was trying to recruit people for his psychology program for ABA,” he said. “He picked me out of the crowd, and put me up front on the stage, and we started role-playing ABA therapy. Things just clicked, and I loved it.”

Realizing that the professionals who aided in his childhood transformation were behavior analysts, Kent felt a deep desire to pay it forward and help others in the same way.

“A light bulb went on, and I realized this is what I was supposed to do because I have been on the other side,” Kent said. 

He changed majors and after earning a bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology, he began working as a registered behavior technician. He found the work rewarding and decided to pursue a master’s degree to become a BCBA. 

After researching his options, he decided on USF’s M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis

Kent met with ABA Program Chair Anthony Concepcion to help decide between the on-campus and online options. He concluded that the flexibility of the online program best suited his lifestyle as he needed to work while pursuing the degree and preparing for the certification exam. He says that the faculty support from the online program was tremendous and that factored into his selection of USF. 

“As soon as I felt that support, I was sold,” Kent said.

Despite excelling in his classes, Kent faced many hardships while completing his degree. His father was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and due to economic challenges, Kent had to move from a house into an apartment, where he also housed his parents. 

So, he ended up being the primary caretaker for his dad while maintaining a full-time schedule of work and classes. 

“I sold all my things while I was finishing my degree, working, and taking care of my sick father. I lost everything,” Kent said. “So, I almost dropped out of the program. But Dr. Concepcion was so encouraging that I decided to stay and complete the program.”

It was certainly a trying period for him, but with the ABA program’s close-knit community, he was able to make it through. Even with the program being fully online, he was able to make meaningful connections with his instructors and classmates through class sessions, group chats, and virtual meetings. 

kevin poses for camera

“It was a difficult time, but I stuck it out. My colleagues and peers in the program were so supportive,” he said. “I was open about it because everyone felt like family. It was a family for me.”

Despite the upheaval, Kent kept working toward the degree and says he could not have done so had he not chosen the online path. He recently took the board exam, passed, and earned his license.

After gaining experience working as a BCBA in a therapy center environment, Kent is now embarking on an entrepreneurial journey through an educational platform he created called ABA Education for Parents. 

“I am excited to launch my website to help educate parents in need about ABA practices, building a community, educating them on autism diagnosis, and providing resources for them to better serve their children,” he said. “My passion has given me the perspective that the field is in dire need of something like this since the average waitlist for children diagnosed with ASD is about eight months to a year to receive services. My platform will be designed to bridge that gap and give parents the tools to help their children as they wait to be onboarded into an ABA therapy facility.”

Reflecting on his journey, Kent encourages others curious about ABA to explore USF’s program, emphasizing the camaraderie in the program and the potential of an extremely rewarding career.  

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USF Innovative Education is a powerhouse of creativity and collaboration, offering a range of faculty-related services including learning design, multimedia development, technology integration, and support for teaching and learning. We help faculty transform courses into dynamic learning experiences, providing training and support for various programs. We work with both experienced and new faculty, assisting them in integrating technology and staying up to date with educational trends.