The Novels

Economics 101, a Novel (Rough Draft) -- My first sustained attempt at a novel, two-thirds finished in rough draft, and heading a little too far south.
What would you do if you and your study partner, with whom you had been seriously discussing marriage, suddenly found yourselves all alone together on a desert island? Study economics?
Sociology 500, a Romance (Second Draft) -- The first book in the Economics 101 Trilogy.(On hold.)
Karel and Dan, former American football teammates and now graduate students, meet fellow graduate students Kristie and Bobbie, and the four form a steady study group.

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Sociology 500, a Romance, ch 1 pt 1 -- Introducing Bobbie

TOC Well, let's meet Roberta Whitmer. Bobbie entered the anthropology department office and looked around. Near the receptionis...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sociology 500, a Romance, ch 1 pt 1 -- Introducing Bobbie


Well, let's meet Roberta Whitmer.

Bobbie entered the anthropology department office and looked around. Near the receptionist's desk was a rack of pamphlets, catalogs, and other informational material. On one side of the rack sat a young woman distractedly reading pamphlets. Bobbie guessed she was waiting to talk with a member of the faculty or a counselor.

On the other side of the rack sat a rather good-looking guy reading admissions materials. He looked like he could be a football player, although he was probably several years too old to still be playing for the university. There was an empty chair beside him.

As she walked in past him, he looked up and nodded an absent-minded greeting, then returned to his reading.

The receptionist was friendly.

"Hi! How may I help you?"

Bobbie smiled back and approached her desk. "Yes. I'd like some information on graduate programs. I have a bachelor's in nursing from," and she named a well-known school with a nursing program, "and a master's in dance from," and she named another school with a moderately well-known dance program, "and I'd like to pursue a PhD here in anthropology, focus on island politics."

The receptionist took a note in her logbook and said, "Well, I don't think we have a program specific to island politics, but we do have ongoing fieldwork in different islands around the world. Let me give you some general information on graduate studies in the department, and I could schedule an appointment for you with one of our graduate advisors."

"I would like that, please."

"My name is Melissa Burns, by the way. May I have your name, please?"

"Roberta Whitmer. I go by Bobbie."

Bobbie took the materials offered and sat down next to the maybe-football-player to read them. He looked up, smiled politely, and said, "Nice day, isn't it?" to which Bobbie agreed. She felt a little disconcerted, but a little relieved, when he went back to reading without further effort at conversation.

Mrs. Burns excused herself for a moment and was soon back.

"Miss Whitmer, do you have time now? Professor MacVittie, who is one of our professors working in island societies, is available for a few minutes."

"That would be wonderful."

"This way, please." Mrs. Burns took Bobbie to a nearby office.

"Miss Whitmer, sir."

"Thank you Mrs. Burns. Please show her in."

Bobbie thanked Mrs. Burns as she entered the professor's office. She extended her hand to the professor, who shook it warmly. "Thank you for meeting me, sir. Please call me Bobbie."

"Nice to meet you, Bobbie. I'm Sheldon MacVittie. Please sit down and tell me a little about yourself and why you are interested in our graduate program."

Both Bobbie and the professor sat down, and Bobbie introduced herself. "As I mentioned to Mrs. Burns, I am a nurse. I'm a registered nurse and certified midwife in both this state and my home state. I have a bachelor's degree in nursing, and a master's degree in dance."

"Nursing and dance? That's quite a combination."

"I've liked dance and sports ever since I was a cheerleader in high school."

"Okay. Cheerleading, as well. So you already have a broad range of interests."

"Yes. I, uhm, served a Church service mission in," and she named a mission that included a lot of island area, "and I spent a considerable amount of time in the islands there. I found life there interesting, and I've been doing some limited research in island politics on my own for the past year."

"I see. Do you have a curriculum vitae with you?"

"Yes, I do."

"May I look it over?"

Bobbie gave him her CV and he scanned it for a few minutes, nodding and asking questions.

"And you're certified to fly."

"It's a kind of hobby. My dad encouraged me, and helped me get certified. I've sometimes flown for his business, although I haven't been able to fly much since getting a job as a nurse."

"Such a broad range of interests. I'd almost say too broad. Has anyone ever accused you of lacking in focus?" And he gave the CV back to her.

"Not really, I work hard at everything I do.

"Well enough, but you are looking to enter a field for which your training in physical education and nursing will have only partially prepared you. Not only that, but you will find the terminology, and even the ways of thinking, somewhat foreign."

"I am aware of that. As I mention in my CV, much of my work in dance involved ethnic dance. That and the languages and cultures I learned as a missionary have been a kind of springboard into anthropology. I have read an introductory text in anthropology," and she named a textbook he knew, "and I think I can see, for instance, how the four fields of physiology, archeology, linguistics, and culture interrelate. I'm not sure yet whether I agree with the four-field point of view of anthropology, but I can appreciate it."

"Okay, so you probably have one freshman-level class out of the way."

"I've been specifically preparing, reading other college textbooks on the undergraduate curriculum -- cultures of the world, symbolism and symbolics, morals and ritual, family relationships, the anthropological view of physiology, psychology, economics, politics in particular, religion as a topic outside E-P-ism, quantitative methods, and so forth."

"Where did you find time?"

"I've been carrying a textbook with me whenever I went anywhere, including work. I learned to speed-read a long time ago. It's not emotionally satisfying, but it gets the job done."

"Okay," the professor smiled, "I get the picture that you are not just daydreaming."

"I know I'm going to have to work hard to get ready for graduate level work. I'm weak in quantitative analysis, so I'm assuming I'll be taking that among the undergraduate classes I'll need. Hopefully, I can get by with just monitoring linguistics. Maybe you can give me some suggestions for additional preparation before I start attending classes next fall."

This satisfied Professor MacVittie, and they discussed some non-textbook reading which he thought might help her.

Bobbie said she would come in to talk with him again before enrolling in fall.

At the end of the interview, he encouraged her to submit an application and promised to see that the appropriate members of the department reviewed it. He encouraged her to talk with him again for advice, and they shook hands again, and Bobbie left.

On her way out, she stopped back by the department office to make sure she had the application documents, instructions, and other materials she needed. The maybe-football-player was no longer there.

At Mrs. Burns suggestion, she worked through the application forms before she left, filling out most of them so that she would have fewer questions when she returned home. She also left her name, address, and phone number, in case Professor MacVittie wanted to contact her.

Then she returned to the parking lot. She had borrowed the family car for the three-hour trip south from her hometown to the school, and she took time to look around campus, look at apartments in town, and so forth.

Before she left town, she stopped by the hospital, to ask if they might be interested in hiring her part-time in a year. Of course, there were no promises, but she was able to introduce herself to some of the regular staff.

When she returned home, her mom was in the living room, reading a book.

"How did it go?"

"Well enough. I met a professor, met some people at the hospital down there, and got a look at the town. Brought home a lot of application paperwork."

"Meet any interesting guys?"

"No, of course not." She laughed. "Well, sort of. There was this guy in the department office who was probably also getting ready to apply for post-grad work. He said hi, but that was it."

"He didn't hit on you?"

"No. Didn't ask for my phone number, didn't even introduce himself. Nice looking guy, too. Almost everyone I met was very nice. Almost as nice as being at Church here. Maybe I'll like it there."

She spent the next several weeks working on the application forms, making another CV for the application, and so forth. About a month later, she had her application ready, and returned to the university to submit it.

Several months later, when she received approval to start taking classes in preparation for becoming a PhD candidate, she gave initial notice at the hospital where she was working and got her dad to help her buy her own car.

Later, she went back to the university and made arrangements for an apartment off-campus for her first year. She met one of the women who would be her roommates during that first year, a petite, active blonde named Kristie Person, who was finishing her bachelor's in Physical Education and was getting ready for master's level work in Education.

She was able to arrange to work on call as a midwife for emergency deliveries, and to work at the hospital there on the weekends, to help stretch her savings and keep her skills fresh.

From the time she went to get the application forms and materials until she started actually taking classes was about eight months. (These days, in our world, that would be a rather short time. Back then in hers it wasn't especially short or long.)

Sometime that summer, her mother showed her an interview article in the newspaper about one of the students who would be beginning graduate studies at OHU at the same time as she would. He was a former football player at the school named Karel Pratt, who had spent two years in professional football while completing his master's degree in engineering, and would now be seeking a PhD in the same field she was choosing, anthropology.

He had been working for more than two years as an engineer, in the new field of semiconductor fabrication. But the company he had been working for failed, and he had decided to take the opportunity to pursue a new field.

The article had been picked up by the national press because he was an example of football players who were pursuing careers in academics during and after their professional football careers. 

About this "mission" thing: The E-P-ists had a program similar to the Mormons' missionary program. In the time frame this story is set in, many young, single E-P-ist men would take two to five years out of the time they would usually be spending in college or starting work to serve as full-time proselyting missionaries. The Church was not yet emphasizing the idea that every young man should prepare for and serve a mission, but it was by no means an unusual thing to do.

Serving a mission was for them an expression of their faith in their Lord and in His Church.

Young, single E-P-ist women at that time were generally not encouraged to go on missions. Their first mission was considered to be in the home.

Unfortunately, there was often a bit of social stigma associated with women who went on missions. Women serving proselyting missions were often considered by the gossips in their home wards to be "past their prime" days for being courted -- or some such silliness.

However, a service mission was a little different, often being considered, socially speaking, as a recognition of skills that the woman had developed. Single women who had qualified to work as nurses or in other service capacities would, in fact, often be recruited to serve in areas of the world where medical or other services were needed and hard to get. A proselyting mission was "for women who hadn't been trying hard enough" -- according to the wags. But a service mission was obviously different.

Now, in their fields of labor, the women who served as either proselyting or service missionaries were generally seen as the mortal equivalent of angels. "A prophet is not without honor, but in her own country and among her own kin," as the scripture goes.

Which just goes to show that gossip is a bad thing, even in a good church. Especially in a good church.

It would be several years later that women in general began to be encouraged to serve missions, and the artifact social stigma would begin to be eased.

Didn't I say it would be quick? We'll get to learn more about Bobbie and Kristie as we go.

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