Christopher France

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Meet Distinguished Professor Christopher France

From his undeniable love for teaching to his intense desire to make the perfect bagel, Christopher France is nothing short of passionate.

Through his demonstrated contributions toward education and the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine, it is easy to see why France, a professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, was named Ohio University’s 2014 Distinguished Professor.

The OHIO community will honor France during the Distinguished Professor Reception and Lecture on March 10 in the Baker University Center Ballroom A. The celebration, which is open to the public, kicks off with a reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by a program that begins at 7 p.m. The program will include a lecture by France titled, “Rolling up Our Sleeves: Working to Prepare Blood Donors for a Lifetime of Giving.”

In advance of the event, Compass sat down with France to learn a little more about his professional and personal endeavors.

Compass: How does it feel to be named a distinguished professor?

It feels good; it’s an honor. It’s exciting in that respect. It’s a bit of a responsibility as well. For example, it’s nice to be able to select a scholarship recipient every year. I’ve put a lot of thought into how I will decide who the best person will be for that.

Distinguished professors meet with the president and the provost a couple times a year to talk about issues related to research and scholarship, so that’s a responsibility as well. Overall, it’s an honor and it’s fun!

What can people expect from your upcoming lecture, and why do you feel it is important for people to attend?

The focus of the talk is going to be on the work that I’ve done regarding efforts to recruit and retain blood donors. I’m going to be talking about a whole bunch of things surrounding that, but in particular we’re going to discuss strategies that we’ve developed that are helpful for people who are interested in giving blood but maybe have a little trepidation – a little concern or anxiety. So, ways they can deal with that and help to give blood if they want to. Anybody who falls into that category, it’s particularly good for them to attend.

If you’re interested in psychology and applied psychology and how we work not just in the lab but in the real world, that’s a good reason to come as well.

What inspired you to become a professor of psychology? 

Oh boy, a whole bunch of things. One of the things that’s a real important reason for me is because it’s such a flexible job, in particular being a health psychologist. There’s the opportunity to teach, do research, and work with people directly.

I learned what psychology was early on in high school, and that there are so many different things you can do in the field. I’m somebody who’s easily bored; I like to be doing a lot of different things, so that really was attractive. Also, when I started taking classes and heard about my classmates’ jobs and the ways in which they were doing things that were very beneficial to people, that was very attractive.

The clinical part alone is interesting, but again for me it’s about having the ability to do more than that. I get to train people to do what I do so the next generation of people can become professionals like this, and I think that’s an important thing to give back. Teaching at the undergraduate level, I enjoy what I do, I enjoy the research, I enjoy learning about it, and so it’s exciting for me to share that kind of knowledge with other people.

I learn a lot from teaching because I’m always asked questions that I haven’t thought about, and it forces me to think about it in new ways. It also forces me to stay as up to date as I can for the classes. There’s a whole bunch of good reasons to teach.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There really isn’t a single one. It’d be bad if there was because then I’d say, “Oh that’s done with,” or “That’ll never happen again.”

There have been moments that I think are highlights. The first time I graduated somebody with their doctoral degree – being their supervisor, their mentor – that was very exciting. It still is, but the first time was particularly interesting. When some of my students get jobs that they really want, that’s always exciting. Getting this award was obviously exciting. I’ve been the president of the main organization for health psychology in the U.S., the American Psychological Association. I was the president of Division 38, which was their health psychology division. When I got elected to that, that was pretty darn exciting.

I’ve edited two of the major journals in my field. They were long-term and reached around five years of work and I’m just finishing up the second one. Getting the job to do that was exciting, and it was exciting to work with people at that level for so long.

I work with NIH right now to help review grants and chair for a grant review panel. We just met earlier this week actually; Monday and Tuesday I was in Los Angeles for that. That’s always interesting, learning about grants and research that hasn’t happened yet. These are people with their best ideas coming forward and trying to get funding from the federal government for it. So, as you can imagine, it’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s cutting-edge research that’s always exciting.

Every day there’s potentially something new. There’s not just one thing, that’s for sure.

What is something unique or unusual that most people don’t know about you?

I like to bake my own bagels and pizza; I make my own pizza from scratch. I’m from Montreal originally. Montreal and New York have fetishes about bagels, and they each have their own bagel. So I moved here – I started here like 25 years ago – and you know, you go to the store and find a bagel and it’s just not the same deal. So, a couple years ago I started making bagels.

Have you now crafted the perfect bagel?

That’s exaggerating. It’s a good bagel. I still have another thing I’m going to do. I learned from a friend who has a barbeque called the Big Green Egg. It’s a wood fire and really well controlled. I’m going to make my bagels on that, and it’s going to be even better.

My whole family is at Ohio University. My wife works with me here and my kids are students here right now, so we’re all Bobcats. I do hockey stuff here. I’ve coached hockey, and I’m a faculty advisor for the Ohio University Hockey Group. We play in the morning on Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s open to students and we have faculty and some from the local community who play, too, and there’s always room for more.

About the Distinguished Professor Award

The Distinguished Professor Award recognizes outstanding scholarly and creative accomplishments and is the highest permanent recognition attainable by faculty at Ohio University. Recipients must have attained tenure and completed a minimum of five years of service at Ohio University.

Among the privileges granted to Distinguished Professors is the honor of annually naming an undergraduate student to receive a year's full-tuition scholarship, lifetime designation title of Distinguished Professor, a one-quarter paid research leave, stipend, and travel support.

The award, first given in 1959, is supported by an endowment provided by Edwin and Ruth Kennedy to the Baker Fund.

The event will be live streamed for those unable to attend the lecture. The stream is available through this link: