“I believe in miracles.”
Those were the words of Wisconsin native Dr. Sharyl Corrado as she surveyed the breathtaking view from her Malibu office. One of the newest additions to the Pepperdine faculty Corrado believes her arrival in Malibu three months ago was nothing short of miraculous.
She has found a home where she least expected it. Admitting that she had applied for other positions in remote corners of Alaska and Iowa she never dreamed she would find herself living in the beach community of Malibu.
“It’s scary for a little Midwestern girl she said with a laugh.
Her apprehensions are not apparent from the way she fits right in with the Pepperdine community. Her students and fellow faculty members have aided in the transition, expressing excitement for Corrado’s arrival.
She’s a team player said Assistant Professor of History Bryan Givens of his new colleague. And she really does seek to achieve excellence.”
The enthusiastic new professor is a scholar of modern Europe and brings a specific interest in the Russian people and language which stems from the years she has spent abroad there.
“I went on missions to Russia and came back heartbroken for the people wanting to serve them she said.
Early in her academic career, Corrado studied Russian linguistics, and cites her mastery of the language her proudest accomplishment.
I’d wanted to learn to speak Russian since I was eight years old she said with delight. It opened so many cool doors.”
Despite her early mastery of the Russian language the field of European history now holds her academic attention. Still she admits that her interest in history was an unexpected development in her career.
“When I was an undergrad at Northwestern University no general education classes in history were required she explained. I focused on linguistics. One of my friends said that the best thing I could do for the Russian people was to learn Russian history. I started taking history classes and decided to pursue it.”
Before her entrance into academia Corrado felt called to be a missionary. Even as a child growing up in Wisconsin she knew that she wanted to be a part of the ministry. Her life became a step of faith when she decided to go to grad school.
“I wanted to be in Russia she recalled. I cried when I got called into grad school. I thought I was meant to be in ministry. But it’s exciting to see how all the ministry is coming into play. I feel like I’m able to combine the many gifts and passions I wouldn’t have been able to if I had stayed in Russia.”
Corrado teaches two classes at Pepperdine Western Heritage III and 19th Century Europe. Her students agree that her teaching style sets her apart from other professors.
“She’s good at pushing people to think harder said Alan Douglas, a student in both of Corrado’s classes. As we get into deeper content I come to respect her more. She helps me develop a good historical perspective.”
Another student said that her history professor shows selflessness and openness in the way she teaches.
“I like that we can share our opinion said student Nasiba Mukimova, who takes Western Heritage III with Dr. Corrado. She adjusts to the students’ opinion instead of doing what she wants and she tries to create an environment for everyone not just for herself. She’s open-minded. Not just in the classroom but that’s who she is as a person.”
Corrado said that the students she teaches are the best part of her job and she enjoys spending time with them.
“I’m privileged to get to know them she said with sincerity. Pepperdine encourages hanging out with students and I really love that.”
As an historian Corrado takes an interest in many different eras of history including medieval times and Imperial Russia. She is also highly intrigued by the cultural mindset of Russia in the 1950s.
“It’s when people really believed in Communism she mused. It’s when you see people having real faith in the future with a sense of goals purpose and meaning. People really believed that the world was getting better. I don’t agree with those beliefs but it’s interesting nonetheless.”
Whether guiding group discussions or teaching the history of Europe Corrado consistently demonstrates a manner that is friendly and cheerful.
“As a person she’s just happy in general said Douglas. We tell jokes to each other. She’s totally conversational and it makes class so much easier.”
A Midwesterner at heart Corrado misses Wisconsin cheese and the smells and sights of autumn. Nevertheless she admits that the view from her office almost makes up for the lack of changing leaves.
She also believes that the faith-based atmosphere at Pepperdine is a perfect match for her convictions.
“I was looking for an institution that was Christian she said. I wanted to be able to ask deeper questions about faith but I didn’t want it to be so restrictive that people can’t think. I like that we can challenge and learn from each other instead of feeling that there’s only one right answer.”
From Pepperdine’s Christian foundation to the friendliness of the people she has met on campus Corrado is thankful for her new position and gives credit to God for the miracle of her arrival in Malibu.
“If I think about what I’d prayed for in the past God’s showing me how much better it can be. I have all these connections to students and faculty I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Corrado hopes she can sometime bring students to the place she treasures so greatly. Calling the Trans-Siberian railroad of the best vacations she has ever had she dreams of introducing her students to the beauty of Russia and of sharing her passion with them.
Joy seems to radiate from the professor’s demeanor and her students appreciate the excitement she brings to the classroom.
“She’s very happy said student Brook Nash. She definitely loves what she’s talking about.”
A dream for the future and ambitious goals in mind Corrado is off to a bright start at Pepperdine. With love for her students and her field of study she is bound to meet with a continuously warm reception in her new home.