John Chaffin, Psychology

Student’s personal experiences play key role in career decisions

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – When John Chaffin (B.A. ’18) was in high school, he failed out of algebra. He didn’t understand basic concepts such as long division, fractions, or negative numbers.

Fourteen years, three college programs, and three remedial math courses later, Chaffin graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida with a degree in psychology.

“That was a huge accomplishment for me,” Chaffin said. “Seeing that success made me want to go further. What else can I do? What do I need to do to get to where I want to be?”

UF Online opened the doors for Chaffin to start fresh with higher education after trying community college. Over the course of three years, Chaffin became involved in a research lab, started an online psychology club, wrote a senior thesis, and developed personal relationships with the professors with whom he worked closely.

“Every class wasn’t cut from a cookie cutter,” Chaffin said. “You could tell how involved [the professors] were in how they facilitated students working with each other. They made it more interactive.”

Chaffin worked as a research assistant in a social cognition lab with Dr. Kate Ratliff, an associate professor in the psychology department. As the lab’s first remote research assistant, Chaffin would regularly call in through video chat and would make a point to drive nine hours from Augusta, Georgia, where he was living at the time, at least once a semester to make it to lab meetings.

Ratliff, who also supervised Chaffin’s senior thesis, described Chaffin as motivated and hardworking. “His enthusiasm and willingness to work hard is very impressive. He is someone who can do a lot of different things, so I hope he can settle on something that brings him joy,” he said.

While taking classes and participating in extracurricular activities, Chaffin also stayed home to care for his two toddlers: son, Paris and daughter, Graciella. The ability to work on classes according to his own schedule allowed him to spend time with his children, all while pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Chaffin wants to use his psychology degree to help people get through life’s transitions. Since he struggled with his own academic life in high school and figuring out what he would do after, he understands the confusion people can feel during pivotal moments in their lives.

“My desire is to talk to people and help them reach their potential or understand their goals,” Chaffin said. “My big thing is helping people transition from one big part of their life to another, whether that’s adolescence to adulthood, high school to college, single to married, married to divorced.”

Chaffin plans to look for a master’s program to ultimately become a licensed psychologist. He wants to use his passion for helping people in fields such as guidance counseling, academic admissions, or advising.

“I want to find something that I’m passionate about,” Chaffin said. “I started with psychology, and the more I learned, the more I got excited about it. Being able to accomplish this gave me so much more confidence in my educational ability, and that’s a big mark.”


Story by Alexandria Ng. Photos submitted by John Chaffin.

Become an influential leader on the forefront of behavioral and developmental discoveries with a psychology degree from the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This program, one of the most popular majors on the UF campus, prepares students for a wide range of related careers, as well as graduate study in psychology or advanced professional programs. The psychology department recruits diverse groups of students, faculty, and staff, and offers an interdisciplinary approach to all matters of the mind.

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