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SLU Professor Named 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award Winner by the University City Board of Education

by Maggie Rotermund on 01/13/2021
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The University City Board of Education announced Jan. 12, that Natalie Parks, Ph.D., has been awarded the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award by Board members.  

Parks is the program director for the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program for the School of Social Work in the College for Public Health and Social Justice College. In addition to her administrative role, Parks is an assistant clinical professor in the School of Social Work. 

Natalie Parks, Ph.D.
Natalie Parks, Ph.D. 

The honor, awarded annually by the District’s Board of Education, recognizes University City citizens who, like Dr. King, have displayed a commitment to community through public service and who have made significant contributions in the realm of social justice.

Parks is a 1995 graduate of University City High School who attended U City schools from kindergarten through grade 12.

She will be honored Friday, Jan.  15, with the release of a video marking her award and accomplishments.

Parks’ career has focused on serving others. As a board-certified behavior analyst and licensed psychologist, she spent the first 20 years of her career serving individuals with disabilities and autism with severe behavior problems. During her time in this field, she worked to expand services to individuals who were underserved while diversifying the field of behavior analysis.

She left the corporate world seven years ago to focus on fighting for equal rights for all individuals in the United States. She established Behavior Leader, Inc. where she provides services to education, fire, police, and social service organizations to increase diversity and inclusion, provide equitable educational opportunities to underserved youth and increase the diversity of educational curricula. Parks also serves on a national task force to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within the field of applied behavior analysis.

Parks co-authored three books: Leadership in Behavior Analysis, Feedback F!@#ups!, and OBM Entrepreneur, and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters focused on skill acquisition, behavior reduction and extending the dissemination of findings from behavior analysis research. She also co-hosts the podcast Inclusion Junkie, where she and her co-hosts focus on how behavior can lead to more inclusive and equitable communities.

Parks is also a community partner with University City High School where she works with a student entrepreneur development program and leads the school’s Ambassador’s program, which focuses on building leadership skills among women students at the high school. She has also worked with UCHS teachers, providing consultation on classroom management, instructional strategies and professional development on how to increase inclusion within the classroom. Most recently, she developed a Registered Behavior Technician job training program, which will provide graduating seniors with the requirements to sit for certification.

Parks earned her master’s degree in 2006 and her doctorate in school psychology in 2008 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. While at the University of Missouri she worked as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) providing early intensive behavior intervention services to young children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders and conducted research on the mental health needs of individuals involved in the juvenile justice system.