Renowned Autism Expert Named a University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor

(May 15, 2020) – V. Mark Durand, an internationally recognized expert in autism and related disorders and professor of psychology at the USF St. Petersburg campus, has been named a University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor. Durand is the first in the history of USF St. Petersburg to earn this distinction.

Being selected as a Distinguished University Professor involves an intensive internal and external review of the faculty member’s credentials by a committee. Those named have their titles formally bestowed at the USF faculty honors and awards ceremony during the fall 2020 semester, and are invited to make a presentation about their research to the university community.

“I was told that no other faculty member from a regional campus has ever received this designation so I was steeling myself for rejection,” said Durand. “When Provost (Ralph) Wilcox called me to say I was to be promoted to Distinguished University Professor in the fall, I didn’t think it was real until the announcement was sent out.”

Durand’s research focuses on developing models for understanding challenging behaviors in people with autism spectrum disorders as well as new treatments. He has published 10 books, including abnormal psychology textbooks, that have been used at more than 1,000 universities worldwide and translated into 10 languages. His work has been singled out for professional recognition from leading journals and the American Psychological Association.

In 2018, a research paper of Durand’s that helped transform the treatment of severe behavior problems was recognized as a Seminal Article by the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. The 1985 article, Reducing Behavior Problems Through Functional Communication Training, is one of just five to receive the seminal distinction since the journal was launched more than 50 years ago.

Working with his colleague Dr. Edward G. Carr, Durand developed the treatment called functional communication training (FCT). First detailed in the 1985 paper, FCT has become a world-renowned protocol for treating severe behavioral challenges, often resulting from autism and developmental disabilities. FCT has been recognized as one of 27 evidence-based practices by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder and has been cited more than 2,500 times in various psychology publications.

Since developing FCT, Durand and his colleagues have combined the technique with other popular therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to help families, teachers and patients collectively improve results. He also regularly trains psychologists and social workers locally and internationally on ways to employ FCT in their practice.

“His important publications, including numerous books and articles, represent a body of scholarship that has been discipline-altering, often public-facing, and widely influential,” according to an announcement from the USF Office of the Provost announcing the Distinguish University Professor awards.

Durand joined USF St. Petersburg in 2003 as the founding dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was the university’s regional vice chancellor for academic affairs from 2005-2007, and also served as interim regional vice chancellor for academic afairs from 2015-2016.

Durand joins two other members of the USF faculty in being recognized as 2020 Distinguished University Professors. The other honorees are Kathleen Heide, a professor of criminology and a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Science, and Hariharan Srikanth, a professor of physics and an internationally recognized expert in the field of magnetism and magnetic materials.