Abigail Baxter – The life of a psychologist

Dr. Abigail Baxter, a ’82 Guilford College alumna, was the latest participant in the College’s Distinguished Psychology Speaker series.

Baxter opened her presentation in the true spirit of a developmental psychologist by describing the environment she was born and raised in, and how that influenced her life.

“I was born into a family that was a little different at the time,” said Baxter. “My parents were older. They didn’t go by a lot of the traditional rules. They never really pushed me about my being a mother or a wife. They encouraged me in school, and they encouraged me to go down whatever paths I wanted to go down.”

She came to Guilford in 1978 and pursued a degree in psychology with a minor in sociology.

“When she was an undergraduate, she took two classes with me,” said Dana Professor of Psychology Richard Zweigenhaft. “She was quiet, but she was smart and she did good work … she was good to have in class.”

After Guilford, Baxter went on to earn a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Immediately after her graduation from Vanderbilt, she went to the Early Childhood Research and Intervention Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago to research child development in inner city families — research that eventually led to a tenured teaching position at the University of South Alabama.

During her time at the ECRIP in Chicago, Baxter acted as the principal investigator for a grant focused on developing an early intervention program for inner city families with infants with disabilities.

Baxter’s presentation at Guilford consisted of a healthy mixture of her personal life journey as a psychologist and her research and professional work.

She is now the second Guilford alumna to be invited to present at the series.

“It’s a series that started eight years or so ago,” said Zweigenhaft. “It was the brainchild of (former) professor Karen Hayes. Karen suggested that we invite a distinguished psychologist to come and talk to seniors about two things: their personal journey … and their research.”

The series has now hosted psychologists from as close as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to as far away as the University of South Alabama.

“It sounds like a great opportunity to learn about life as a psychologist,” said Early College senior Kristen Witkemper. “Hearing about the experiences of a researcher in the field really helps bring the subject to life.”