Late Monday night, as the world stood at the edge of war, 47 female college students stood at the edge of a Blacksburg, Va., parking lot. They wore white T-shirts and knee-length Hawaiian skirts in the 25-degree cold. But they sang a snappy song, loudly and repeatedly, and somehow it kept them warm:
We are Delta Gamma
Wearing bronze, pink and blue
We are Delta Gamma
Don't you wanna be a D.G., too?
Kim Schindel of Fairfax was one of the 47 singers. Five busloads of pledges were scheduled to visit the D.G. sorority house in the space of 4 1/2 hours as part of Virginia Tech's annual sorority rush. As each batch of recruits arrived, Kim's job was to greet one pledge, walk the young woman inside, ply her with cookies and punch and try to learn in 15 minutes of cheery Q-and-A whether she was D.G. material.
The evening was formally called Second Invitational. But it was just as much a chance for Kim Schindel to see how the shoe feels when it's on the other foot.
A year ago, as a Tech freshman, Kim had been one of the nervous hordes who tried not to trip as they stepped off the buses. This year, as a well-entrenched sophomore nearing her 20th birthday, Kim was one of the Delta Gamma insiders who got to vote yea or nay.
"I can't believe I'm on the other side already," she said at 8 the next morning, after staying awake until 4 a.m. to finish the selection process. "It feels like a lot more than a year ago."
This is the 12th in a regular series of columns about Kim Schindel's life as a college student. Thanks to her gracious cooperation, and the blessing of her parents, I have reported on Kim's progress at Virginia Tech since the first week of her freshman year. I plan to continue until the day Kim graduates. My aim is to provide an honest look at how a young person from the Washington area handles modern college life.
Second Invitational was a welcome break for Kim and her sorority sisters. Like the rest of the country, the Tech campus was obviously preoccupied this week with the Middle East.
As student drivers hunted for parking spaces beside the drill field -- a grassy strip that runs down the center of the Tech campus -- many had their headlights on, as a tribute to American soldiers.
Meanwhile, a hot-selling T-shirt in a College Avenue clothing store says across the chest: I'M SADDAM MAD. And Kim said she was worried about several Robinson High School classmates who joined the military right after graduation and are now in the Saudi Arabian desert. "I can't believe they might not be alive in a couple of days," she said.
But Kim is looking toward her own future with more enthusiasm than ever. After several false starts and blind alleys, she has chosen a major.
"I followed my heart, and my heart said kids," Kim said. "When I speak to kids, they really, really listen." So in late November, Kim officially registered as a Family and Child Development major.
"My goal is to teach for a good while, get really involved in how the school is run, then become vice-principal or principal of an elementary school," she said.
Yet a hurdle stands in her way. She would prefer to pursue her goal via a major in Early Childhood Education. But that department accepts only 50 new majors a year, and one of the requirements is an overall grade point average of 3.5. Through three semesters, Kim's is 2.9.
"I probably should have done better," Kim acknowledged. "But I volunteered so much last semester (about 11 hours a week) that I got three B's, a C-plus and a C."
Kim thinks that an overall 3.5 is within reach, although it may not be attainable until the end of her junior year. Even if it isn't, she hopes the E.C.E. dean will admit her as a major anyway.
"I've always wanted to work with kids," she said, as she fiddled with a club sandwich at a campus hangout called Greek's. "People who are brilliant aren't necessarily good teachers."
Why teaching? And why young kids? Kim points to the thrill she got from running a program for 5-to-8 year-olds at a Blacksburg 4-H Club last fall.
"Having them call you Miss Schindel, I can't describe how much I like it," said Kim. "Respecting me, and listening to what I have to say. It's great."
Then she wrinkled the side of her mouth. "Biology was boring," she announced. "And if I'm bored, that's it."
This semester, all her classes (art for elementary teachers, concepts in math, human development, introduction to human geography, professional orientation in human resources) are aimed at a teaching career, not at marine biological research, communications, or anything else. Kim says she hasn't been bored, and doesn't expect to be.
"It's meant to be," she said. "Kids are where I belong."