Dating expert to speak at Whitman College

Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociology professor and author, is one of the people behind PerfectMatch.com.

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WALLA WALLA -- Dating and relationship guru Pepper Schwartz will speak Thursday evening at Whitman College.

Her presentation, "Sex, Dating and Public Sociology," will be a map of sorts, detailing how Schwartz has pursued an unusual career path that began nearly four decades ago.

It was a time his-and-her relationships, as seen in the context of sociology was at the bottom of the food chain, she said from her Seattle office.

Then, sociology as it applied to politics was the golden child for this field, she added. "The study of intimate relationship was low prestige."

Schwartz is a professor at University of Washington and is considered one of the country's leading relationship experts. She helped found the dating website, Perfectmatch.com, has written numerous books and contributes to several national publications.

Her presentation at 7 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium is part of Whitman's yearlong series dealing with public sociology -- including community organizing, conducting research and creating a need-based service. Schwartz has what associate professor Michelle Janning considers a "stellar" record of getting her professional expertise into the mainstream, the department chair said.

"And because she has created a relationship-matching service in PerfectMatch.com, we wanted her to come and speak about her public role as a sociologist," Janning added.

Schwartz, who holds a handful of awards and titles that include a doctorate, developed the "Personality Profiler," which is similar to personality tests performed in a clinical setting. Her screening tool, however, is exclusively for committed adults seeking long-term relationships.

It's one way her work has helped clear a way to move sociology from beyond college campuses and medicine out into the real world, Schwartz clarified.

While her choice of study was more or less unprecedented when she began, it was the right time in history, she feels. "It was the '70s, we were in a gentler period of time. On one hand we were furious at men, but on the other hand you felt you could do anything. Women were getting all kinds of jobs ... we weren't filled with the sort of reasonable worry as they are today," Schwartz noted.

"We were pretty cocky."

She might not make the same decisions today, the professor conceded, but that doesn't keep her from cheerleading for what she terms the hard choice to follow a dream.

Reality does have to intervene at times. "Obviously, if you're 50, you're not going to be a ballerina, but I don't think it's unrealistic to create an area of interest. I'll be talking about how sociology translates into these areas," Schwartz said.

"Part of that is being inspired by what you love, then find a way to do what you love."

For more information about Schwartz's Whitman College presentation call 527-5026.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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