ChrisWaltonIt was an easy decision for Chris Walton to attend the University of Arkansas, deepening his family’s legacy. Walton is the third generation of his family to call the U of A their alma mater.

He succeeded his grandmother, his dad and his aunt. Walton, without hesitation, decided to attend the U of A. “For me, I love the UA,” he said. “Even when I went down to Mississippi State University to pursue a doctorate degree, I had Razorback stuff on my truck and covering my desk.”

Looking for something practical, a degree that would lead to a career, Walton chose an engineering focus, mechanical engineering in particular. “The reason I chose mechanical is because I enjoy working with my hands,” Walton said.

When he graduated from the U of A in 2010, he had two job offers but politely declined the offers to pursue his doctorate from Mississippi State University in mechanical engineering, specializing in advanced vehicular systems.

“The day I turned them down, it was hard, but now that I’m here where I’m at now, I’m glad I decided to finish my education,” Walton said. “What’s another two to four years of education compared to the 30-40 years of a career you’re about to embark on.”

While working on his doctorate at MSU, Walton’s research focused on the damage progression of the chemo-mechanical effects on magnesium alloys. He did this as a research assistant under Mark Horstemeyer at MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems. This research is a multidisciplinary field that integrates chemistry, materials science, solid and fracture mechanics, and probability and statistics. Though Walton’s research was an automotive focus, he said it translates pretty well since corrosion in both cases is a major factor.

“My focus as a mechanical engineer is of general materials–that’s the side I enjoyed the most,” Walton said. “This program fits pretty well into what I enjoy doing.”

After Walton earned his doctorate, he quickly found work with British Petroleum in Texas. Walton had applied online with BP but said he knew his application wouldn’t make it far there. He had met a BP recruiter at a job fair and kept his card filed away. “I went online, and online applications are a crapshoot. It’s really hard to get an online application to actually be looked at,” Walton said.

Knowing the odds were against him, Walton contacted a human resources representative he’d met previously at an engineering conference. ”It was more networking rather than going online and getting selected,” Walton said.

Because of his networking skills, Walton was hired into BP’s Challenge Program. Through the program, BP hires fresh graduates into three years of putting their education to work while learning more about the oil and gas industry before beginning a career. Walton was hired as a riser engineer, helping to maintain oil and gas pipelines from the seafloor to the platform to the transport vessel.

Walton will rotate around the BP Challenge Program to get accustomed to the different sides of oil and gas engineering over the next three years. BP isn’t Walton’s first taste of applying his education outside of academia. While in school, Walton worked at six different internships. He said some of his internships gave him professional experience and some gave him tangible experience as an engineer.

He credits the U of A for helping jump start his career. He was a recipient of Black Alumni Society Scholarship and the Silas S. Hunt Scholarship. A distinguished scholar, Walton received the Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year Award and the Golden Torch Award, presented by the National Society of Black Engineers.

A life member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, Walton said part of the reason he joined was because a portion of the dues goes toward scholarships. His family has established a scholarship with the Black Alumni Society – the Trent and Vivian Walton and Sheila Walton Moore Scholarship. It is a $500 need-based scholarship awarded to an entering freshman whose parent or grandparent attended the U of A.

Walton made his first definitive step to the UA in the summer of 2006. He signed up for R.O.C.K. Camp, wanting to ease his first year experience. “Going to college, it was one of those times where I didn’t know a lot of people,” Walton said.

R.O.C.K. Camp, or Razorback Outreach for Community Knowledge, helps fresh high school graduates transition into university life. Walton paid his R.O.C.K. Camp experience forward by working for three summers as a camp mentor. “I knew what it involved and knew what it was about, and I wanted to help others so I became a mentor,” he said.

Walton said one of his most salient memories are the ”relationships that I made between some of the students that I mentored throughout their collegiate career.” One of those relationships grew into something special. Walton met Jazmin Hamilton at the 2006 R.O.C.K. Camp. She became his wife in April.