The Professor's Favorite Student
Author: Richard H. Williams


The first time I ever saw Nydia she appeared at my office door and said she wanted information about the Ph.D. program in Educational Psychology at the University of San Diego. She had black, curly hair which was adorned with a red ribbon and her eyes were a gold/green. She was wearing high heels, her skirt was red, and her blouse was white. A small gold emblem was pinned to her blouse. Nydia was attractive enough to model for Victoria's Secret and, as I soon found out, was intelligence enough to become a member of Mensa. I learned that Nydia was born in Madrid, Spain.

I invited her to sit in the bean bag chair in my office and said that I would give her a folder of materials describing my program before she left. We had a long conversation during which I answered her questions and I, in turn, asked her a series of questions, some of which were as follows: "What are your scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)? What degrees do you hold, what were your major fields, and what colleges did you attend? What were your grade point averages. What scholarships have you held? What language experiences have you had? What vocational experiences you have had? Are you a member of any professional organizations? What academic journals do you read? What computer skills you have?

In responding to this last question, Nydia became excited and said, "Professor Higgins, I just love computers. I have experience with the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), and the Biomedical Computer Programs (BMD) and I can program in the popular source langauges.

Well, Nydia held a Batchelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Mathematics and a Masters degree in Psychology with a minor in Mathematics, both degrees awarded by the University of San Francisco. At the time we met she was a high school Mathematics teacher. Her computer skills were better than mine. One might say that she was in love with technology. Nydia had already been quite active in professional organizations and had made presentations at regional Psychology conferences.

One problem she had in teaching at the high school level was the boys found her very attractive and sometimes became disruptive. Once in a middle school class in Math- ematics, a boy sitting in the front row proposed marriage to her. He then turned to his friends and said, "I told you I would do it."

And Nydia, who was poised and comfortable in an interactive teaching situation said: "Well, how stable is your savings account? And what is the nature of you portfolio?"

As our pleasant interview came to a conclusion, I told her that with the knowledge I already had of her I would say that she would be accepted into my program.

"Is it possible for me to be awarded an assistantship?" she asked.

"I will look into it," I said.

Who is Mentoring Who?

Nydia was awarded an assistantship, and she worked with me on research projects and did some teaching. We spent a great deal of time together academically but not socially.

From time to time the chairman of my department would ask me to cover his classes so that he could attend a professional convention. Once he requested that I cover a class when the subject of discourse would be Research Designs. I agreed to this as the topic was broad and therefore would give me great flexibility. I could focus, for example, on any one of the following: true or quasi- experimental designs, survey sampling techniques, qualitative research methods, nonparametric statistics, etc.

As I walked across campus the evening of the class, I noticed a crick in my neck. It was the kind of irritation that could be persistent, but it wouldn't prevent me from teaching the class. As I approached the classroom, the door opened and Nydia stepped out.

She said, "Would you like me to lecture on Research Designs in this class?" Nydia was holding two books on Research Designs in her little hands. But how did she know about the class, the topic, and the fact that I was teaching the course?

I thought about the crick in my neck and the fact that the students would like her and said, "Yes, Nydia, that would be good."

We chatted for a few minutes and then the students moved into the room. Nydia and I moved to the front of the classroom and she said, "Professor Higgins, here is a manila folder containing a rough draft of the manuscript we have been working on. I typed it up on Microsoft Word. While I am lecturing on Research Designs you can sit in the back of the class and read this paper. Here is a pen and a legal pad so you can write down editorial comments. Then, when I finish lecturing, you will give me your editorial revisions and I will go home and make the changes on Word. I will then e-mail the revised manuscript to you."

The following thought went through my mind: "Who is in charge?"

Christmas Parties in San Diego

Sometimes it was dark when the classes at the University of Miami ended, and then Nydia asked me to walk her to her car. It wasn't that she was afraid of the dark, but it was suspected that a rapist was prowling the campus.

Now I had been invited to two Christmas parties, one by my Dean---and that was to be held at his condominium---and the other by the Chairman of my Department, and it would be at his house. I had already asked my wife to accompany me to the parties and, as usual, she declined.

As Nydia and I crossed the campus I was telling her jokes to make her laugh. Nydia liked to laugh and I liked to hear her laugh. I finally got up the nerve and asked her to go to the parties with me.

To my surprise she said, "I would love to." I was so happy that I thought my heart would jump out of my chest. But then she said, "I will have to check my date book to make sure there are no conflicts, but I do want to go with you."

Well, Nydia's group of graduate students had planned a party which conflicted with one of my parties. Was this the beginning of the end? Yes! She then found out that her huband had puchased tickets for the Nutcracker Suite and the date conflicted with that of my other party. So I didn't go to either of my parties. A week later I clipped out the review of the Nutcracker Suite and scotch-taped it to the wall of my office, right behind my morris chair.

Several days later Nydia came into my office and saw the clipping. "Why have you pasted that review to your office wall?"

I replied, "Well, I like to look at it, even though it makes me sad. It reminds me of what could have been."

And Nydia moved close to me---she is just five foot, four inches tall---and said "Poor baby." And then she kissed me on the lips.

Nydia Becomes Angry

One day Nydia and I were in my office and she was sitting in comfortable chair across from my desk and I was sitting in the morris chair behind my desk. Nydia was furious and I was somewhat angry myself. Although she had done a good job in her course work, the time had come to conduct her dissertation research and I was not satisfied with Nydia's writing skills. I felt she didn't write well enough for dissertation work. So I gave her two options. One was that she could take two undergraduate courses in English Composition and the other was she could become enrolled in writing skills activities at the University of San Diego Writing Center.

Well, Nydia thought she could rise to the occasion and complete the dissertation in a highly satisfactory manner without being bothered by the activities I had demanded, which would delay her progress toward the Ph.D. in Educational Psychology by one or possibly two semesters. As she sat in her chair and unzipped the leather pouch which held her high heels, she removed the flat heeled shoes which she always wore in my office. Nydia also kept her tooth brush and tooth paste in my office, which turned me on a bit.

Nydia said, "I think I am going to drop my assistantship." I didn't reply. Finally she stood up, wearing her high heels, and carrying the pouch containing her flat heeled shoes. She walked close to me and said, "This is to let you know that I am officially resigning from my assistantship."

I hated to say it, but I replied, "I couldn't care less."

And there she went, her high heels clicking down the small hallway outside of my office, and out into the main hallway. I felt badly, my head hanging down. After a while I stood and then walked out into the small hallway and then into the main hallway. I looked to the right and Nydia was not there. I looked to the left and there she was, sitting on a bench, pouting. But I refused to give in, so I walked to the elevator and rode down to the first floor.

The next evening I was to each my seminar in experimental design. Usually Nydia team-taught the course with me, so I was wondering if she would show up. As I approached the classroom there she was, dressed in elegant fashion. She was carrying a box wrapped in a festive manner with a red ribbon on top, talking with her fellow students. As I drew close she gave me the box pressed against me, and kissed me on the cheek.

"This is for you," she said. I opened it and found it contained a handsome white sweater with blue trim and an artistic golf emblem. She knew that golf was my favorite sport and it was hers too.

It was time for class and as we walked into the room she asked me of it was O.K. for her to begin the class. I said that would be fine. But instead of lecturing on experimental design she began to talk about me. She asked the students if they realized how strong my research reputation was, both nationally and internationally? Did they realize that I was cited often in the literature? She continued along these flattering lines. Each time she made a favorable comment she looked me right in the eyes. I was sitting in the back row of the class and smiling. Did she love me or did she hate me? I was hoping she was in love with me. She certainly was a beautiful woman. At one time I favored Oriental women and then it was Black women. But now I preferred Latins, especially Nydia.

As we left class I told Nydia that I really liked the sweater she had given me.

She said, "It's not from me."

"Jesus, Nydia, how can it not be from you? Is this another game you are playing?"

She said, "This is no game; it just is not from me. It is from my husband, Chet. He was playing golf at the Doral Country Club the other day and he encountered this white sweater with the golf emblem in the pro shop. They impressed him so much that he bought three of them, one for you, one for himself, and one for his uncle."

Doctoral Examinations

Elsa, who was Cuban, was my other favorite student and was Nydia's best friend. She was in the Ph.D. program in Special Education. When Nydia and Elsa were preparing to take their Doctoral Examinations, I constructed most of the questions for Nydia and one question for Elsa. I asked two other faculty members to give me a question for Nydia. Students could either write their answers in blue books or use the computers in the laboratory on the second floor of Coleman Building. I was asked to proctor the laboratory examinations. I had hardly entered the lab, carrying the examination materials, together with a biography of Gertrude Stein by John Malcolm Brinnin, when Nydia and Elsa walked in.

Elsa stared at me in disbelief and said, "Oh, no, not you! Don't look at me when I'm taking the exam. It could bring bad luck.." She was carrying a large bottle of water. Nydia didn't say anything.

As they were taking the exam Nydia, who was sitting in the back row and typing like blue blazes, suddenly stood up and walked to the front. She seemed angry. She had a question about one of the test items. Well, I didn't want to give her an advantage over the other students, so I simply read the item aloud and said that it was clearly stated. But Nydia was getting more and more angry. A quiet, frightening, growling sound issued from her throat. She looked at me with daggers. Apparently she thought the test question was ambiguous. She walked back to her seat, turning once on the way to give me an evil, poisoness stare. Although Nydia remained aloof to me for several days thereafter, she warmed to me considerably when, a week later, I informed her that she had passed the examination with Honors.

The day Nydia and Elsa learned they had passed the examination we had some mixed drinks in my office. We were in high spirits and ran out of my office and skipped down the hall of the third floor of Coleman Building singing loudly and out of key. Our arms were linked about the waists of one another, with me in the middle, skipping along, not unlike Dorothy and her friends in the Wizard of Oz, moving along the yellow brick road. As we drew near the entrance to the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, his door opened out into the hallway and out stepped the Dean. His face was red and he stood there watching our little show with his hands on his hips. He was frowning. We slowed down the skipping, disengaged our arms from one another, and the singing quickly diminished. Unfortunately, Nydia and Elsa started giggling and couldn't stop. The Dean went back from whence he came and slammed the door behind him.

We made a 180 degree turn and quickly moved back to the safety of my office, laughing so hard that tears were coming to our eyes. As we entered my office we saw Fluffy, Nydia's cat, which she had brought with her for the celebration, sitting in my chair with a mortarboard on her head, and this prolonged our laughter. Nydia found a comfortable chair and Elsa placed Fluffy in Nydia's lap.

Nydia stroked Fluffy and, smiling at me, she said, "Professor Higgins, would you like to pet my pussy?"

"I would love to, if you would just remove Fluffy from your lap."

The End


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