The Professor Is In: Q&A with Chris Walther

Why Jessica Biel and Gandhi? Let Professor Chris Walther explain it. Check out part two in the series, The Professor Is In by Pace student Jordan Veilleux ’13.

Pace alumnus and Adjunct Professor of Psychology Christopher Walther ’02 has established himself as a prominent member of the Pace Community. Currently based out of the Pleasantville Campus, he works as a Pforzheimer Honors College Academic Adviser, as well as adviser to the Golden Key International Honor Society and the UNICEF C.H.I.L.D. Project. In 2009-2010 he was a bronze winner of the Jefferson Awards, the “Nobel Peace Prize of Public Service.”

One of Walther’s favorite classes to teach is Psychology of Civic Engagement, a class that pairs traditional classroom studies with a travel course. The course implements a little bit of everything important to Walther: mentoring, travel, psychology, and pro-social behaviors and has taken Walther and his students to exotic locations such as Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago. Outside of Psychology of Civic Engagement, Walther’s methods are just as effective… and recognized–students recently voted him one of their favorite professors in the Pulse’s Pawscars. He teaches courses including Social Psychology and Psychology of Personal Adjustment, Psychopathology, and Psychology of Cultural Diversity, and continues to form a connection with students encouraging in them an educated outlook at the world around us, honesty, humor, dedication, charity, and most of all motivation to make a difference.

What was your favorite class as a student?
Besides the psychology courses I took as an undergrad and through my graduate degree, my favorite course was probably my photography course. I really like the idea of actually creating something from scratch—creating a picture.

What one thing or person made you passionate about your current career?
I think there have been many people, many situations that have inspired me throughout my life. Such as the volunteering opportunities I’ve been a part of, the various internships and jobs I’ve held, the people, colleagues and professors I’ve met along the way, and I think my students make me passionate about my career…Just reaching out to so many people and students through what I teach and what I say—that makes me extremely passionate about my career.

What quality do you most value in your students?
I would definitely say motivation. Not only to set goals, but to follow through with those goals with an action to achieve them is the quality I most value in students. I see students every day that just seem lost, who just don’t know where to go. Then you have the flipside—students that are highly motivated, students who set goals and follow through with them through action. It’s one thing to say, “This is what I want to do,” but how do you plan on getting there?

What is your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
I definitely think students need to be engaged in the University experience. They need to become involved in University life. I personally believe that at Pace University you can be a big fish in a small pond, if you think it, you can actually make it happen [at Pace].

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
Definitely a zoologist! Growing up there were many different careers I thought of and I’ve always had a passion and interest in animals and helping so to be a zoologist and work at a zoo would be amazing.

I grew up in Manhattan, born and raised, and now I live about an hour and a half out of the city. Just doing [chores] around the house—landscaping, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, fixing things—I dread so much. Any career that involves landscaping, construction, fixing things is definitely not for me.

What is your favorite TV show/book?
My favorite TV show by far is The Amazing Race. It’s all about travel and competition, which are two things that I enjoy. I actually tried out for the show twice, but unfortunately never got called back. You can’t beat the travel. Seeing the world and trying to win a million dollars paired together is great.

I would say my favorite book is one I read recently—and one which I really enjoyed and made part of a few of my psychology classes—Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s about making spontaneous decisions, good or bad, versus decisions that are planned out.

What is your favorite journey/experience?
My travel experiences, definitely within the courses that I have taught and all the locations I have been to through civic engagement. Just this year my wife and I took a cruise to Europe—we visited Italy, Greece, and Turkey…Europe was amazing and it was my first cruise. It was a great experience.

I’m big into traveling. I encourage students to study abroad. I help them when they create four-year plans to incorporate either a study abroad experience or to take a University travel course.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
I went to Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade; I would say the Serenity Prayer. [Ed note: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…] I definitely try to live by those words within my life.

If you could have any five people, living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
This is the toughest question of the bunch! Martin Luther King Jr.—I would want him at the party to talk to him about equality, to bring him along to show him how equality has changed from when he passed to today, and to hear his view points on how equality could be different in the years to come and advance further. Gandhi—I am big into helping, civic engagement, and pro-social behavior and I think Gandhi is an inspiration for such, so to have him there would be great. My Hollywood crush, Jessica Biel. Jane Goodall—I find her amazing for the life she led and for being an advocate for animals, and the one person who can really make me laugh, the comedienne Kathy Griffin. I find her hysterical!

This interview has been edited and condensed from its original form. Faculty profiles are based on student suggestions.

–Jordan Veilleux