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Walton Ferguson '24 pursues quantitative psychology to help students succeed

Walton Ferguson

For most of recent Auburn graduate Walton Ferguson's life, he wanted to be a computer engineer. In high school, Ferguson discovered his passion for change and what drives the differences in individuals.

"I wondered, how do students become good students?" Ferguson said. "What's the difference between a good student and a bad student? How could you change them over time? How can we better help people grow and change into something that they want to be?"

Those questions led Ferguson to pursue a degree in psychology rather than engineering, but he still had a large interest in math. When a professor introduced him to quantitative psychology, it was a perfect fit.

"I wanted to have some kind of involvement in both. I didn't know how it was going to go, but I set out in college knowing I would find a way to make both of those things work," Ferguson said. "In psychology, there's things about people that you may not be able to measure, but in quantitative psychology, we think that maybe we can."

Through the university, Ferguson was involved in four different research opportunities, and worked with two during his last semester. One is research on eating disorders and suicide with Associate Professor April Smith. The other is research on reading comprehension with Associate Professor Alejandro Lazarte.

Inspired by his time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ferguson became incredibly invested in the expansion of Auburn's Honors College. He took initiative and founded a couple of new Auburn traditions, including a math spelling bee and honors movie nights. He even created his own class on food at Auburn, which the Honors College has been running for three semesters.

"I'm really passionate about Honors. I'm passionate about giving students that want to achieve great things a platform to do it," said Ferguson. "A big reason why I'm doing what I'm doing now, doing research and education, is to give people the tools that they need or the information they need to do the great things that they want to do."

In the fall, Ferguson will attend the University of Notre Dame to receive his doctorate in quantitative psychology. After that, Ferguson hopes to come back to a university.

"It would be a dream for me to come back to Auburn and work here as a professor," Ferguson said. "I would honestly love to have some kind of journalist role, writing about research in quantitative psychology."

Find out more information about psychology in the College of Liberal Arts.

Tags: Psychological Sciences Alumni

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