November 12, 2021

SUNY Empire's Autism Center Gets a New Name and Logo

Newly named Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports more fully reflects the center’s goals

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — November 12, 2021) Today, SUNY Empire State College Officer in Charge Nathan Gonyea announced the SUNY Empire State College Center for Autism Inclusivity’s new name, Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports, during the college’s inaugural conference, Partners in Applied Behavior Analysis. Gonyea also announced an endowment from Susan and Jack Turben that funds the center’s director role in perpetuity.

The Center for Autism Advocacy’s new name more closely represents the center’s goal of supporting students with autism, providing the autism community with up-to-date research on autism spectrum disorders, and educating faculty and staff on how to meet the needs of students with autism in online and in-person learning environments.

SUNY Empire State College also announced that the Center for Autism Advocacy’s directorship is permanently endowed thanks to a gift from SUNY Empire alumna and child-development expert Susan ’72 and Jack Turben. In recognition, the role, currently filled by Dr. Noor Syed, is now the Susan H. Turben Director for Autism Advocacy. 

SUNY Empire has a long history of providing access to higher education. Established by the State University of New York 50 years ago, the college’s mission is to provide motivated adult learners with access to innovative, flexible, quality academic programs.

As part of that mission, in February 2020, SUNY Empire State College and Anderson Center for Autism unveiled plans to develop a comprehensive training and consultation program to lead to SUNY Empire’s designation as a first-of-its-kind autism-supportive college. The program’s goal is to ensure that SUNY Empire employees acquire the knowledge to implement measures that promote success for students with autism spectrum disorder. Despite the growing number of students with autism who seek a college degree, there is a scarcity of higher-education programs that fully support students within the autism community.

In August of last year, SUNY Empire and Anderson Center celebrated the launch of the Center for Autism Inclusivity to provide educational support and research to better serve individuals with autism in the classroom and the workplace. In partnership with Anderson Center, the center promotes workforce development for professionals serving individuals with autism, creates autism-inclusive learning environments, and helps meet the growing demand for professionals working with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders. SUNY Empire’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis, which launches in spring 2022, prepares students to address the educational, emotional, and social needs of individuals with autism.

SUNY Empire State College Officer in Charge Nathan Gonyea, Ph.D. said, “Over the past 50 years, we’ve built upon the diversity of our students — developing, implementing, and assessing approaches to learning that recognize and adapt to their distinct needs. The Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports is a shining example of our mission, and its new name encompasses the full continuum of services we provide.” 

SUNY Empire State College’s Susan H. Turben Director for Autism Advocacy Noor Syed, Ph.D. said, "As we collaborated more extensively with our autistic colleagues, we realized that the Center for Autism Inclusivity’s name did not fully represent the scope of our goals. Our new name, Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports, better reflects our mission of working with, listening to, and learning from the autistic community to engage in initiatives that best support autistic and neurodivergent values.”

SUNY Empire State College Assistant Director for the Center for Autism Advocacy Lauren Allen, Ph.D. said, “Our Center for Autism Advocacy’s mission remains the same, but our new name better aligns with our commitment to advocating for and with autistic and neurodivergent individuals to create a society that supports inclusivity, autonomy, and equity.” 

SUNY Empire State College Interim Assistant Vice President for Advancement and Interim Executive Director of the Empire State College Foundation Sue Epstein, Ph.D., said, “We are so excited about the center’s new, more encompassing name, and we are grateful to the Turbens for their decades of generosity and service to the college, which now includes funding to help support the Center for Autism Advocacy. This endowment allows the center’s director to continue to serve families, children, and educators — just as Susan Turben did throughout her career.”

Anderson Center for Autism CEO and Executive Director and SUNY Empire State College Alumnus Patrick Paul said, “We are so pleased that SUNY Empire State College has changed the name to the Center for Autism Advocacy:  Research, Education, and Supports. The name better reflects the focus and impact the center will have in supporting better outcomes for individuals with autism. We look forward to our continued partnership in achieving both our missions.”

Anderson Center for Autism Chief Operating Officer Tina Covington said, “Anderson Center for Autism fully supports the new center name, Center for Autism Advocacy: Education, Research, and Supports. We believe this new name change better reflects the mission and vision of the center, and we look forward to our continued partnership to improve the quality of life for autistic individuals and their families.”

For more information about the Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports and its programs, visit