'Amazing' Opportunities


Bryan Acton '13 of Franklin, Mass., had always been curious about the different ways in which people behave. At MCLA, he's exploring this interest further as a psychology major.

"The discipline of psychology has a significant impact on almost all aspects of life," he explained. "People often solely associate psychology with counseling or psychiatry, but the field as a whole is much larger than this, and that is what I love about it. 

"At a personal level, my interests have progressed from an interest in individual functioning to the behavior of multiple individual within an organization. I have developed a fascination with applying psychosocial concepts to organizations in order to assist them in functioning more proficiently."

Since arriving on campus, Acton has been amazed at the myriad of research opportunities he's had.

"For example, I am currently completing a senior thesis in accordance with Dr. Thomas Byrne and the Center for Student Success and Engagement. In this research, I am applying behavior analytic principles for the purposes of improving the performance of at-risk students," he explained.

"When I have presented this research at conferences, people are often astonished that Dr. Byrne and I have completed such a large-scale research project at a primarily undergraduate institution. This all became a reality as a result of the amazing support and autonomy that the psychology department, and the MCLA administration as a whole, has provided me. I could not imagine completing this research at any other college. MCLA truly provides amazing opportunities to students that are ready for the challenge."

As a junior, Acton presented a poster at the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy conference at UMASS-Amherst.

"This was a national conference, and most of the presenters were graduate students. Accordingly, it was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot from it; these are the type of activities that are generally rare for undergraduates, but MCLA provides these opportunities," Acton said.

Last month, he represented the College at the COPLAC Regional Conference, where he presented a poster on the topic of improving the academic performance of at-risk students. "Experiences like these will better prepare me for my future as a graduate student, and far beyond," he said.

A highly motivated student, Acton felt he did not achieve the academic success in high school that he knew he was capable of. "From the moment that I first stepped onto the MCLA campus I have never been the same. I am driven by my love of learning, the promise of a future career that I will love, and most of all, by the chance to make my family proud."

Last year, Acton served as the president of Psi Chi, MCLA's psychology honors society. As part of the College's Write Stuff program, he also volunteers to help children in local elementary schools. In addition to being a tutor and a teaching assistant, he is completing research with Dr. Maria Bartini as they study the behavior of coaches, parents and players at a notable youth soccer program in the Berkshires.

From the start, "MCLA just felt like the right place for me. The unique opportunities that MCLA offered, coupled by the affordability of the school, and the beauty of the Berkshires were ultimately the determinants of my decision to attend MCLA." 

Perhaps the best part of being an MCLA student is its small academic environment, Acton said.

"This opens the door for a multitude of worthwhile experiences," he explained. "There's the ability to have an hour-long conversation with your professor during most times of the day, to to develop a great friendship with the administrative assistant of your department. Your professors know who you are, and sometimes even know your goals and aspirations. It is something that is not easy to illustrate through simple examples or to put into words."