Professor Spotlight: Christopher F. Silver

Maddie Loud 

Junior Editor

At this time last year, I was almost ready to commit to the University of the South, the school that numerous tour guides, advisors, and professors had advertised to me as the place you wanted to be if you were looking for a tight-knit community promoted by professors who are invested in you, not just your academic success. This past August, I began taking an introductory psychology course with Dr. Christopher F. Silver, and though he was new to Sewanee like me, I immediately recognized the traits of the considerate professor I had hoped to have. 

Dr. Silver grew up in Dunlap, Tennessee “with Sewanee in [his] backyard.” He notes that the lack of diversity at the time in his “fairly isolated” hometown was a part of what inspired his fascination with “the outside world and the many different cultures and people [he] didn’t get to see” in Dunlap. While Silver was originally supposed to hold a factory job, he ended up attending and falling in love with college: “When I got to college, it just blew my mind how much I didn’t know.”

In graduate school, Silver “tried to learn a variety of things” but was always especially drawn to different aspects of the human experience from art to religion to philosophy. He found that psychology served as a discipline that held bits of all these passions, and that a career in teaching would allow him to help others explore that field. He earned a doctoral degree of philosophy, research psychology, and social psychology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, a masters degree of arts in religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, and a doctoral degree of education, a masters degree of science in psychology (research), a bachelor of arts in religious studies, and bachelor of science in psychology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

Between his own time in school and his current position here at the University of the South, Dr. Silver continued to explore different “human institutions” of thought and belief. He spent time studying different religious practices and traditions including some in an Iskcon temple. His published research in these areas includes observations of serpent handling, spiritual fitness, and the credibility of eye-witness testimony, and among other platforms, he was featured on CNN. Silver even practiced as a Buddhist monk. 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Christopher Silver

However, Dr. Silver states, “the classroom is where I find my zen.” He describes feeling a draw toward Sewanee for its multidisciplinary take on education as a liberal arts school and the chance to work with his “brilliant” colleagues who share his vision in “psychology for the public good.” His students have only solidified his appreciation for the school: “I’ve really fallen in love with the vibe of the students. It’s not a job for me; it’s something I actually love doing.” 

Dr. Silver currently teaches an introduction to psychology course, a course in psychology of personality, and a new class he has contributed to the program: Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. He prioritizes getting students more involved with the department’s work; it is not uncommon to find him hosting a psychology trivia night or advertising for a lecture on the mind. He has given students from all classes the chance to embark on their own independent studies, and furthermore, he encourages all interested students to partake in a psychology course: 

“Even one class can open you up to the variety of all kinds of human experiences and the meaning we derive from them. The science can open you up to the human condition and understanding the world. It has so many connections to so many other areas. At the end of the day, everything is a human institution, and what better way to explore those institutions.”

Even those pursuing a career outside of the field of psychology should consider taking a course with a professor like Dr. Silver who takes the time to teach to every student’s way of learning and can make even an 8:00 a.m. class intriguing. You will inevitably walk away from the course with a wider knowledge of yourself and others and will have had the chance to work with a professor who will get to know and care about you and your future.