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Students learn do’s and don’ts of formal dining etiquette

By : Rabia Muhammad

Rodger Summers, vice president for student affairs, provides tips on etiquette to students attending “Dining for Success,” a dinner that provided University seniors with a crash course on dining etiquette.
Upinder Dhillon didn’t like what he saw.

Addressing a crowded Susquehanna Room earlier this month, Dhillon, the dean of the School of Management, thought the students attending the candle-lit dinner were a little underdressed for the occasion.

“Do you know what business formal is?” Dhillon jokingly asked the 30 students attending “Dining for Success,” a dinner that provided University seniors with a crash course on dining etiquette.

Dhillon asked the students who were not professionally dressed to stand. “Gentleman must wear suits and ties and not a combination of casual jackets and slacks,” he said. “Ladies have to wear suits.”

The Career Development Center, Office of Alumni and Parent Relations and Sodexho Food Services hosted the event, which also allowed seniors to develop interview skills before they graduate.

Though Dhillon suggested that more formal attire is needed during an interview, he said the dinner should be considered a learning experience. “The world is not soft and fuzzy when you’re trying to get a job,” he said. The event began with a mock cocktail hour where students and administrators mingled and chatted. Students searched for others to discuss common interests and goals, while some found it difficult to introduce themselves.

“I’m shy,” said Ellen Boesenburg, a graduate student in the School of Education and Human Development, as she stood away from the crowd. “That’s why I’m in this corner.”

Boesenburg said she attended the event in order to learn more about socialization and eating etiquette to advance her career.

Joshua Frumber, a finance and accounting senior from Long Island, attended so he would not be nervous during interviews. “This way I won’t have to second guess myself,” Frumber said.

The event also allowed some University officials to provide some of their own personal tips for success. Speakers included Rodger Summers, vice president for student affairs; Nancy Paul, director of CDC; and Joe Laskaris, Sodexho catering manager.

Summers advised that people should arrive 10 to 15 minutes before an interview. Also, if someone needs to travel by air to an appointment, they should carry their suits on the plane in case their luggage is lost.

Tasting food before adding condiments is also very important and may be key to securing a job, Summers said.

Summers said he once heard of a law firm that hired attorneys who tasted their food before adding salt and pepper because the interviewers thought those who added condiments without tasting most likely made assumptions and did not gather all the facts.

“We would rather you make mistakes tonight than to go to an interview and make a dreadful mistake that might cost you the position,” Summers said. As students and administrators ate dinner, Laskaris walked from table to table to critique manners. Laskaris recommended that interviewees break off bite-size pieces of a roll and then butter each piece; cut fish or meat as it is eaten; and place silverware at an angle at the right side of the plate if it is not being used. Laskaris said the most common mistake he saw students make was waiving silverware in the air as they talked. “The positive side is people have interest in having good manners,” Laskaris said. “But the purpose is to make others you’re dealing with feel comfortable.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08