Meet Dr. MacKenzie Wicker: Transition to Adulthood Programming and Research at the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities

January 23, 2024
Dr. Wicker

Dr. MacKenzie Wicker, Ph.D., BCBA, LBA, is a dedicated Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD). Dr. Wicker completed her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) specialization from Baylor University in 2023. She is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) with extensive experience working with individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. Before attending Baylor, she completed her bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and her master's degree in Special Education from Texas State University.

Her dissertation, a significant milestone in her academic journey, focused on equipping adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for competitive and integrated employment. Dr. Wicker targeted problem-solving skills by teaching employees at a local coffee shop that specifically hires individuals with IDD to handle various customer service situations. While working as a shift supervisor at the local coffee shop, she met the late Stephan Jaramillo, who influenced her life profoundly. Dr. Wicker dedicated her dissertation to her late friend, Stephen. 

“Stephen embodied joy. He demonstrated such a pure and genuine love for people, regardless if he was taking a coffee order from a stranger or eating lunch with a best friend; you’d never be able to tell the difference. His friendship left a lasting impact on my life, and I can only hope to touch other’s lives similarly through my transition work.”

Dr. Wicker's role at the BCDD involves spearheading an innovative initiative centered around the transition to adulthood for individuals with disabilities. Her work will include developing and launching programs that enhance post-school outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Transition is one of several signature areas emphasized at the Center. 

Dr. Wicker emphasized the importance of providing meaningful college, career, and community experiences to everyone, regardless of ability. She also stressed that collaboration among key stakeholders is critical. “Success in the field truly takes a village, involving the individual with a disability, educators, families, service providers, employers, and more.”

Dr. Wicker shared advice for students contemplating a Ph.D., encouraging those interested to pursue it. She emphasized that the experience goes beyond "4 more years of school" and is pivotal for personal and professional growth. She considers completing her Ph.D. as her most proud accomplishment. Despite the challenges, she affirms that the journey was undoubtedly worth it, and now she gets to create the program of her dreams.