History buff Ryan Cox is carving out quite a higher education narrative for himself.
The Tyrone, Pennsylvania, native is enrolled in the online Master of Science in Education – Special Education – Autism and Related Disabilities program at Youngstown State University.
“When I was looking at what I wanted to do with my career, the Master of Science in Education program at Youngstown State drew my attention because it keeps me in human services,” he said, “but now I get to work with the specific individuals with intellectual disabilities and the co-occurring disorders group.”
Cox, who plies his craft at Community Options in Indiana, Pennsylvania, is on track to complete his second master’s degree in March 2022.
“The online portion of the program has been wonderful and flexible,” he said. “It has given me the opportunity to focus on my career while I gain more knowledge. My other master’s degree was also an online program.”
Campus proximity and the ability to earn another advanced degree fully online helped persuade Cox to become a Penguin.
Cox graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and affairs from Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) in 2018. As an undergrad, he also played football and completed an internship at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
After adding a master’s degree in human resource management from his alma mater, Cox worked for Adelphoi as a talent sourcing specialist and shift supervisor. He then became a house manager at Taylor Maleski before transitioning into his current role at Community Options.
“I continued to develop in that same mindset of working with at-risk kids,” he said. “Instead of working with children who are having correctional and juvenile probation problems, I moved into education and more advocacy work for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.”
The two courses that Cox is currently taking — SPED 6917: Effective Instruction for Learners with Exceptional Needs and SPED 6928: Transition to Adult Life — are his favorites in the online M.S. Ed. in Special Education — Autism and Related Disabilities program curriculum.
“I am learning a lot of interesting things in both of those courses,” he said. “One of my current roles involves working with assessments for individuals with intellectual disabilities. I have been able to take the assessment classes and further enhance my skill set.”
Cox also enjoys working with the YSU faculty members while balancing school and a full-time position since he enrolled in March 2021.
“When it comes to this program, the professors are definitely accessible — that’s one of its greatest strengths,” he said. “They are looking to help you grow academically and professionally. They are not hard to contact, and they reply quickly.”
In the Books
With his second master’s degree within reach, Cox hopes to expand his career in new directions and continue to help people and make a difference.
“I am working toward being a behavioral analyst and my BCBA [Board Certified Behavior Analyst] certification,” he said. “Earning this second master’s degree will absolutely open up opportunities for me down the road in my career.”
Cox also has a strong support system with his family and friends — especially his wife, Amarisa Miles, who also enjoys learning about history at places like Colonial Williamsburg.
“They’re very excited for me to go back,” he said. “They have definitely seen the type of growth I have been able to accumulate, both educationally and professionally — especially with this master’s degree program.”
Although Cox is only a few months into his time at Youngstown State, he knows he made a good decision to return to higher education and write the next chapter of his story.
“So far, I have received solid value from the master’s degree program,” he said. “I have learned a lot, and I look forward to taking the rest of the courses in the program.
“One of the draws of Youngstown State is, it’s not a larger school. So, when you are working with the professors, they help make you feel like a student in the class, not just another number for their quotas. It’s been great.”
Learn more about YSU’s M.S. Ed. – SPED – Autism and Related Disabilities online program.