Get to know . . . Chris Wilbur, assistant professor of psychology

May 5, 2015

Where did you grow up? Tell us about your educational background.

Chris Wilbur headshotI grew up in London, Ontario, Canada, a city of roughly 370,000 people. Check it out on a map – even though I’m from Canada, I grew up south of Wausau! I received by bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Western University, located in my hometown.

Why did you decide to teach, and how did you develop an interest in psychology?

I entered university as a pre-med major but enrolled in introductory psychology because it seemed interesting. I read a few chapters in the textbook before classes began and Sigmund Freud’s ideas really intrigued me and got me interested in psychology, even though we now know that most of his specific ideas are unfounded. And I knew I wanted to teach following a few meetings with a psychology instructor during my junior year. Those stimulating discussions inspired me to want to be on his side of the desk.

Did you have a favorite or an interesting job as a teen?

I had a job, but I can’t say it was interesting or something I really enjoyed. From my late teens to my early twenties, I worked at a lumberyard, mostly hauling lumber, concrete, shingles and drywall into the backs of trucks. It wasn’t the most glamorous or stimulating job, but it at least kept me active.

What is something you learned from your parents that you carry with you today?

Something that sticks out is humility. That includes recognizing that I’m not better than anyone else. We’re all people of worth, and we can always strive to be better.

Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?

I watch at least one Seinfeld re-run most nights, so that ranks among my favorite shows. Although the series is around 20 years old, I find many of the topics the characters discuss are highly relevant to our daily existence, even today. And it’s good to have a nice laugh now and then!

Outside of work, what do you do to relax?

Not enough, apparently, because I’m pretty high strung! I like to make time to socialize with friends and colleagues, but I still try to make sure I have at least an hour to myself each night to watch TV or read. My job is inherently social, so I need to find some time for myself. I try to exercise occasionally, as it definitely helps to mitigate stress.

What’s been the secret to your success?

Maybe it’s Canadian modesty, but I don’t think of myself as successful, at least by conventional standards. I’m just happy having a job that provides intrinsic value. And, as clichéd as it sounds, educating the next generation of leaders is a very noble profession. I believe the key to success is finding something that brings you a true sense of personal fulfillment. That way, you’ll rarely wake up dreading the coming day.

What do you like best about UWMC?

I enjoy the collegiality that a small campus affords. Simply being able to get to know students better through simple chats in the hallway is something that brings joy to each day. I also value the opportunity to chat with colleagues in various disciplines. Through such dialogue, I get exposed to ideas or ways of thinking I otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

Chris Wilbur in class















What advice do you share with new students?

Use your college years as an opportunity for self-discovery. Yes, your degree should help you establish a rewarding career, but it’s misguided to view college merely as “job training” or to only care about the grades on your transcript. By recognizing how material can be applied to make your life better, and by using the ideas to which you’re exposed to inform your values, you’ll find your courses much more interesting and get deeper value from them.

I also believe college should be an opportunity to establish new social connections. That’s why it saddens me when I hear about students taking a full course load and working 30-40 hours a week. That’s a recipe for academic disaster, and it also robs students of those formative years when exposure to new people and new ways of thinking can really stimulate self-discovery.