Sun Devil Spotlight: Sophia Choi

August 22, 2023 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
In this Sun Devil Spotlight, Sophia Choi discusses her decision to pursue ASU Online’s Master of Arts in special education with a concentration in applied behavior analysis program and how earning this degree accelerated her career.

Growing up in a family that valued academic achievement, Sophia Choi embraced the pursuit of higher education from an early age.

"My parents were very driven by academic excellence, and so was I," Choi reflected. "Both of my parents attended college, so I had that same expectation — go to college, get a good job and have a stable career."

Choi’s educational journey began at a local university in San Jose, California, where she majored in humanities. It was during this time that she decided to pursue a path in special education. 

"I've always wanted to help people, but I’m afraid of blood, so I didn’t want to go the doctor or nurse route," Choi explained. "I always was passionate about teaching and learning, so I thought maybe something in the education field."

This drive to help others originated at home. In middle school, Choi’s brother was diagnosed with autism, and the subsequent applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy he received sparked her interest in the field of special education. Witnessing the positive impact of ABA therapy on her brother's life, Choi's passion for learning found a new direction.

“Seeing the rotating team of therapists, supervisors and speech pathologists in and out of the house every day sealed the deal for me,” Choi said. “I got to see firsthand how much of an impact these sessions had on my brother and his quality of life.”

Inspired by her brother's journey with ABA therapy, Choi decided to take a bold step into the world of applied behavior analysis. She embarked on a career as a behavioral therapist, but her drive for continuous growth led her to pursue further education. Arizona State University’s online Master of Arts in special education with a concentration in applied behavior analysis program offered a perfect opportunity for Choi to expand her knowledge and make a lasting impact on the lives of those she served.

Completing her master’s while living in California, the program’s comprehensive curriculum allowed her to integrate her studies with practical experiences, providing a unique combination of theoretical knowledge and real-world applications.

"All of the curriculum was aligned with the time that I was able to apply it in the field, so I felt like I got a double dose of the learning — first, the book version, and then the applied version," Choi explained. 

This hands-on approach not only prepared her for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) exam but also enabled her to become an expert in her field. After graduating in 2020, Choi was promoted from behavioral therapist to clinical supervisor, where she observed client sessions, provided feedback to therapists and engaged in parent training sessions. Her dedication to the well-being of her clients extended beyond the clinic, as she also maintained her influence as a support system for her younger brother.

In addition to her professional journey, she co-hosts a podcast called "Spicy ABA" where she addresses issues in the field of special education and advocates for continuous improvement in practices.

Looking ahead, Choi envisions using her expertise to inform larger decisions and influence positive change in people's lives.

"I believe that the principles of behavior analysis can be used to improve people's lives in a lot of ways," she said.

Whether it's helping individuals develop healthier habits or creating a more sustainable lifestyle, Choi’s dedication to enhancing the well-being of others remains unwavering. Her journey continues to inspire those around her to pursue excellence and compassion in their own paths of learning and growth.

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