Economics 101, a Novel, ch_01 -- Introducing Bobbie

[JMR20170204: The second draft of this chapter is here:]

(The framing story starts is here: If you haven't read that, you might want to. Otherwise, the rest of this may not make much sense.

[JMR201605181926: Can't believe I pointed to chapter 11 instead of chapter ten.]
If you don't care about characterization, you might want to jump ahead:

Perhaps we should have a little flashback, so we can get to know our co-protagonists before we start doing experiments with them.

Bobbie entered the anthropology department offices and looked around. Near the receptionist's desk was a rack of pamphlets, catalogs, and other informational material. A couple of students were sitting nearby, reading, maybe waiting to talk with faculty or counselors.

One of them looked like he could be a football player, although he looked like he might be a couple of years too old to still be playing for the university.  He was rather good-looking.

He looked up and nodded absently, and returned to the sheet of instructions he was reading.

The receptionist was friendly. "Hello. 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 started writing a note in her log 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, 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 and smiled, and said, "Nice day, isn't it?" to which Bobbie agreed. Then he went back to reading.

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 participating in island fieldwork, is available for a few minutes."

"That would be wonderful."

"This way, please." Mrs. Burns took Bobbie to a nearby office, where she announced at the open door, "Miss Whitmer, sir."

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


Mrs. Burns stepped back to allow Bobbie to enter, indicating the professor with her hand. "Professor MacVittie." And Mrs. Burns extended her hand, showing Bobbie inside.


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

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

Mrs. Burns nodded, and left.

So they sat down, and Bobbie introduced herself.

"As I mentioned to Mrs. Burns, I am a nurse. I'm a registered nurse here and in my home state, and I'm a certified midwife in this state. I have a bachelor's degree in nursing, and a master's degree in dance."

"Dance? In addition to that impressive list of qualifications?"

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

"Oh. So you already have a broad range of interests."

"Yes. I 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 over for a few minutes, nodding and asking questions, then gave it back.

"And you're certified to fly."

"It's a kind of hobby. My dad encouraged me, and helped me get certified."


"I'd almost saw say your range of interests is too broad, lacking in focus."


And he gave the CV back to her.


[MR2015JMR201605150230 --  I find I tend to gloss over some things:

"This is all well and good, but you are asking 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 were my springboard. I read an introductory text in archeology, [textbook name elided], and I began, I think, to see how the four fields of physiology, archeology, linguistics, and culture interrelate. I'm not sure I agree with the four-field point of view, but I can operate within it."

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

"I've been specifically preparing, reading more college textbooks on the undergraduate subjects -- 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 Mormonism, quantitative methods, and so forth."

"Where did you find time?"

"Carried a textbook with me whenever I went anywhere, including work. I learned to speedread a long time ago. It's not emotionally satisfying, but it gets the job done."

"Okay, 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. I'm hoping I can get 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, and she agreed to visit the school several times for further advice before she would enroll 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, offered further advice if she should need any, and they shook hands 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 not there.

At Mrs. Burns suggestion, she worked through the application forms, filling out much of them while there, 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 to the school, and she was spending the day looking around campus, looking at apartments in town, and such.

While she was in 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 meet and 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. 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."

And 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 hand-deliver 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 town 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 bachelors in Physical Education and was getting ready for Master's work in Education.

And she was able to arrange to be 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, that would be a rather short time. Then it wasn't especially short or long.)

[JMR201605141444 -- I forgot one incident of interest:

Sometime in the summer before she went to grad school, her mother showed her an interview article in the newspaper about one of the students who would be beginning graduate studies at the same time as she would. He was a former football player at the school named Karel Pratt, who had spent two years as a professional player 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: Back in the time frame this story is set in, many young, single Mormon/LDS 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 and is an expression of one's faith in the Lord and in His Church, for most missionaries.

Young, single LDS [JMR201609112012: Woman women ] at that time were generally not encouraged to go on missions. Their first mission was (and still is) 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.

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 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.

On the other hand, in their fields of labor, the women who served as either proselyting or service missionaries were generally seen as the mortal equivalent of angels.

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 erased.

The link to the next of the characterization chapters will be here when it's ready is here:

(The chapter index is here:

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