May 7, 2019

Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College to Expand Opportunities for Students Entering Field of Autism

Anderson Center Executive Director and CEO Patrick Paul '94, a SUNY Empire alumnus, and Officer in Charge Mitchell S. Nesler, shake hands after formalizing the partnership between the two organizations.

(STAATSBURG, New York - May 7, 2019) Executives from Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College held a signing ceremony at Anderson Center on Monday, May 6, to mark the launch of a cross-institutional educational collaboration that will provide paths for professional advancement for Anderson Center employees and develop a program to prepare SUNY Empire State College students to work with individuals with autism.

The immediate objective is to expand professional opportunities for those entering the field of autism.

Future goals include:

  • Developing trainings, events and materials to better disseminate greater knowledge and skills related to working with individuals with autism to professionals and the community at large.
  • Collaboratively develop academic programs that lead to degrees – including a master’s degree – that meet workforce needs, as well as certification or licensure in professions that serve individuals with autism.
  • Establishing a Center for Excellence in Autism Education.

“Together, Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College will learn what works best and share that knowledge with the center, college, nonprofit communities and, ultimately, with government agencies across New York, all for the benefit of those living with autism,” said SUNY Empire State College Officer in Charge Mitchell S. Nesler. “Thanks to the leadership of SUNY Empire alumnus and center CEO Patrick Paul and his team, and the work of Dr. Nathan Gonyea, our newly appointed dean of the School for Graduate Studies; Associate Professor Donna Mahar and Assistant Professor Ajay Das, of the college’s School for Graduate Studies’ education programs; Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams; and Stephanie Corp, director of the Fund for Empire State College, we are able to take the first step in our journey to better serve those living with autism, their families and the communities where they live and work. I am most grateful for the good work of all involved.”

Tina Marie Covington, chief operating officer at Anderson Center, said, “The idea came about when our CEO at Anderson, Patrick Paul, who’s a graduate of Empire State College, was discussing with staff at Empire State the growing need for professionals in the field. Incidence rates for autism are now reported at one in 59, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it’s critical that we develop programs that will prepare professionals to support this population and give them a real career track. The idea behind this collaboration is to develop a model that can be used for Excellence in Autism Training Centers that will hopefully be created in other parts of New York state, our country and internationally.”

Added Tina M. Payeur ‘01, a SUNY alumna and executive assistant to the chief executive officer at Anderson Center, “So much of my adult life has been about Anderson Center and, as a graduate of ESC, this collaboration is a 'full-circle' moment for me. Bringing these two outstanding organizations together to further professionalize the field will be an amazing accomplishment.” Payeur completed a Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services in 2001.

Anne Jordan ’12, ‘15, assistant director of human resources at Anderson Center, graduated from Empire State in 2012 after attending the institution while working full time. She then went on for a graduate certificate, which she completed in 2015. Jordan said, “I would not have even been able to apply for the employee relations coordinator position at Anderson in 2015 without my bachelor’s from Empire State. Therefore, I would not be an assistant director of human resources today. I loved the classes that I took at Empire State and credit them for the education, which enabled me to become the professional that I am today. Thanks to the opportunities offered by Empire State College, I work at a job that I love.”

Jordan continued, “Anderson encourages our team members to educate themselves, to improve not just the quality of life of those we serve, but their own quality of life. Education holds the key to so many possibilities and options. Having Anderson partner with ESC will be a fantastic opportunity for our staff and for the agency itself. As our team members plan their career paths and attend Empire State College – on their time, at their pace - they can find promotional opportunities within their own agency, allowing them to grow with us.”

Covington continued, “We are so excited about building this program here at Anderson in cooperation with Empire State College; it will have far-reaching impacts. I love working for an organization so visionary and it’s great to see Anderson taking a lead. And, working with an institution of higher education that really values life experience and designations, like the RBT (Registered Behavior Technician), makes this a perfect fit and a great match.”

In a process now underway, SUNY Empire faculty and Anderson Center staff are collaborating in the college’s Professional Learning Evaluation program for Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification.

When completed, the college will assign undergraduate college credit for the college-level learning obtained in the RBT certification program. Anderson Center employees then may include this credit as part of a bachelor’s degree, saving them substantial amounts of time and money.

Upon completion of the evaluation process, SUNY Empire will award credit to any individual who has RBT certification, regardless of where they completed their training, when they enroll with the college.

Anderson Center for Autism is a nonprofit organization based in Staatsburg, New York, that provides educational, vocational and residential services to people with autism spectrum disorder. Autism presents with communication, social, and sensory processing challenges.

For more information, call 845-889-9208 or visit

About Anderson Center for Autism

The mission at Anderson Center for Autism is to optimize the quality of life for people with autism.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College educates more than 17,000 students in person, online and through a blend of both, at more than 30 locations in New York and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s more than 1,300 faculty mentors, each student designs his or her own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates his or her schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 84,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit and follow the college on social media @SUNYEmpire.

Anderson Center for Autism contacts:

Marybeth Cale, publicist, Anderson Center for Autism,, 845-750-3763

Eliza Bozenski, Chief Development Officer, Anderson Foundation for Autism,, 845-889-9594