In an office cluttered with the books and papers of a dedicated college professor, Corrine Dempsey sits at a computer, finishing up an email to a student before allowing me to interview her. If asked, Dr. Dempsey will say that her experiences in her field have been fairly uninteresting, certainly not worthy of being spoken about in an interview. A quick interview with her, however, left me only wanting to hear more of her travels and interests.
A look into her office quickly shows that she is a religious studies professor: Her walls are covered with pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses, of Jesus, and of flags from around the world. There are surely many more, but it would take more than a mere glance to truly appreciate the artistic and aesthetic quality of her office.
Dr. Dempsey did her undergraduate studies at Berkeley, studying counseling and social work. As she progressed however, she started to find the work depressing and began considering graduate school. She studied and fell in love with theology, getting her masters degree at Berkeley. For her PhD, she received a grant from the college to study in India. She stayed in Kerala, India for the total of about a year, where she talked to many people at religious sites across the area. Dr. Dempsey spoke enthusiastically of the ancient history of Christianity in India, dating back to the 3rd century.
Aside from her studies in India, Dr. Dempsey has seen much of the world. She has had the opportunity to teach at a college in Ireland. She studied in Iceland for a year, writing about her experiences talking to mystics there who could talk to spirits. For her college dissertation, she wrote on the depiction of the Virgin Mary in India, sparking her interest in female saints.
She spoke fondly of her college experience, saying that the most important thing she learned was that you didn’t need to be perfect, a message she tries to relay to her students as a professor. She described herself as very active in college, however not always taking her grades completely seriously. She derived from her own struggles a sense of strong compassion for students who struggle academically.
It is clear that Dr. Dempsey sees college as the time to discover who you are and explore different paths of life. She says one of her main goals as a professor is to always expose students to new things and open up possibilities for them. Dr. Dempsey has learned a lot through her travels and studies, however she is most proud to teach students and share her knowledge and experiences. A conversation with her proves that she does indeed have a lot to share in that regard.