Students at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota spend a lot of time learning hard skills, and rightfully so, but recently they got a chance to improve their soft skills by attending an Etiquette Lunch on campus.
The event, which was hosted by Dr. Mary Catherine Fox, professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and former dean of the School of Business, gave students the opportunity to learn how to conduct themselves professionally at a meal setting.
Dr. Fox said going to a business luncheon or dinner can be intimidating for many reasons. “We want to make a good impression, not embarrass ourselves, and be engaged and engaging,” she said. “A little knowledge goes a long way to making you feel comfortable in any social situation. By understanding etiquette then that’s one less thing you have to be nervous about.”
One of the students who gained that knowledge by attending the Etiquette Lunch was junior Max Champa, a Business Intelligence and Analytics major, who said he attended because he wanted to know more about how to eat and engage professionally.
“I had recently been in a business lunch so I attended the etiquette lunch to answer some of the questions I didn’t know the first time I was in that environment,” he said.
He said some examples of the advice he learned were to put the knife back down on the plate before taking a bite and not putting silverware back on the table after using them for the first time.
Dr. Fox said some other things she wants students to know are: don’t order messy food, keep it simple, and take small bites. “You’re not there to eat, you’re there to focus on whatever the event is,” she said.
Besides the advice, Champa also liked that the students got to ask their own questions in case their concerns weren’t brought up by Dr. Fox.
“It was a nice, intimate environment which I think was a lot more beneficial because we could ask our own questions and it made me feel like I was really getting something out of it,” he said.
Another thing Dr. Fox hoped students took away from the Etiquette Lunch was a new perception of etiquette.
“It’s not stuffy, it’s not snobbery, it’s simply something that we all do so we know when we come into a dinner or a luncheon what to expect of each other,” she said.
She said she’s enjoyed teaching students about etiquette for the same reason she’s taught at Saint Mary’s for so many years. “To the extent it can be helpful to someone, make their life easier, or ignite a new ability, then it’s very gratifying for me,” Dr. Fox said.
Champa said etiquette is something every graduate should know.
“At some point in your life you’re going to be at a professional setting so it’s important to know the basics before you reach that point,” he said. “I’m glad I attended, and I would recommend it to others.”