Students might’ve come for the fabulous fare, but food wasn’t the only thing
on the menu at a recent etiquette dinner on the University of Mary Washington’s Fredericksburg campus. Before the meal, UMW events coordinator Susan Worrell issued one important caveat to the 50 soon-to-be graduates: “This is not just a class about silverware.”
The students – all prospective employees – joined President Richard Hurley, alumni and administrators in Seacobeck dining hall for a six-course meal served with a lesson on proper table manners and interviewing strategies.
The dinner was sponsored by the Office of Career Services and the Office of Alumni Relations.
Sometimes it’s the small things that matter most to a potential employer.
“When you’re interviewing, every single thing that you do is
important,” Worrell said. “All of your actions are important.”
Hurley, who personally delivered small etiquette books to the student diners, said that he hoped students left understanding the importance of good manners.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Hurley said. “In an interview setting, there will be people watching and possibly judging.”
From brie and beef to a Cornish hen, each course offered a new challenge to the students. The various courses taught the diners not only how to eat soup correctly and how to handle food with bones gracefully, but also the art of small talk and networking with alumni.
Katie Locke, assistant director of Career Services, hoped that the participation of the president and alumni would boost students’ networking confidence.
“So many of the alumni express an interest in mentoring or giving advice,” she said. “The Mary Washington connection is so strong and they really want to use it.”
Students appreciated the opportunity to learn skills that they might not have acquired elsewhere.
“It was a lovely event that allowed us to learn some useful workplace skills that we wouldn’t learn in our classes,” said senior political science major Ashley Nixon. “And isn’t that what college is about? Getting you ready for the real world.”
Mark Thaden, director of Alumni Relations, agreed, hoping students were able to learn new skills and connect with UMW alumni.
“It was worth the investment preparing students for their future. If they have that professionalism, they’re more marketable,” Thaden said. “Proper etiquette is something people use throughout their entire lives, what better place to learn it?”