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October 3, 2012 - 10:52pm

Professor Profile: Virginia Murphy


What classes are you teaching this semester?

This semester I’m teaching Environmental Literature, which is an LSA Freshman Seminar, and I am teaching Environmental Justice which is a Residential College course. My home base is RC, but I’m faculty associate with PitE. I’m really excited because next semester I am teaching a new course that I developed. I was on leave during the winter semester of last year to develop an Environmental Activism class.

What inspired this class?

I’m finding that, particularly when you teach environmental justice, students are really engaged and smart and want to do something rather than learn about the woes of the environmental world. So we thought this would be a perfect way to do that.

What was your journey to becoming a professor?

I grew up in Connecticut and I did my undergrad at The University of Maryland and my graduate work at Georgetown University. I’ve always wanted to teach. I worked for a really long time as a chef and then went back and got my graduate degree so that I could teach. I started teaching at American University and then my husband was offered a position at the Law School here so we decided to take it and move here 6 years ago.

What you do in your free time?

I run, I cook and I eat lots of food. And I’m taking guitar lessons. I’m really bad at it, but it’s kind of fun.

What’s your favorite place to visit?

Borestone Mountain Resort in a place called Monson, Maine. It’s part of the Appalachian Trail that Thoreau first walked.

What is the most inspiring piece of literature you’ve read?

I love Annie Dillard and (her) “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” I think she exemplifies what the written art form looks like. I just finished Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra which I thought was fabulous because everyone thinks of Cleopatra as this seductress, which she was, but she was a powerful ruler and incredibly intelligent and a military tactician, and she never gets credit for that. I just finished last night the first book of “The Hunger Games” that I am reading with my 15 year old.

What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your students?

I would say to question authority and not believe that the government is a panacea for everything that ails us. We ethically make our own destiny and we got to be part of that. You can’t expect someone to do that for you.