A polite reminder: College students learning it's never too late to learn etiquette

2014-03-29T23:58:00Z 2014-03-30T22:03:15Z A polite reminder: College students learning it's never too late to learn etiquetteBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

The world could use more politeness and niceties.

There are never enough "thank yous," "pleases," "you're welcomes" and notes of gratitude in today's fast-paced society of technology.

"It seems like basic information to take for granted, but not everyone knows what to do at a formal dinner with a setting that has multiple plates, glasses, forks and spoons," said Becky Kriha, 21, a senior at Valparaiso University who devoted one of her class projects this semester to a presentation about navigating a properly planned dinner table setting.

"And when faced with a situation dining with others and you're not sure what course comes next, it can become very uncomfortable very quickly if you're worried about making a mistake."

Kriha, who is from Neenah, Wis., credits her parents, and especially her grandmother for instilling the know-how of setting a proper dinner table and the courtesy and manners expected when dining with others.

But for many, including college students facing new "firsts" like face-to-face interviewing and employment opportunities, knowing what to say and do for making the best impression is vital for avoiding life's faux pas moments and social pitfalls.

Holly Simpson, assistant director of the Valparaiso University Career Center, annually hosts a community "Etiquette Dinner and Networking Reception" for students and others in the ballroom of the Harre Student Union.

Last semester's dinner included more than 150 participants eager to embrace the finer points of polite social interaction.

Guiding the dinner and discussion is usually Patricia Cook of Patricia Cook & Associates of Wilmette, Ill., who talks about "first impressions."

She loves to share the famed quote by author Oscar Wilde: "The World was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork."

Simpson, who has been in her position with the university for eight years, said the dinner is always a success and a tradition that began more than 12 years ago.

"Being confident helps so much for any social situation, and in the scenario of talking to potential employers, it's even more emphasized for success," Simpson said.

"For $10, students share a four-course dinner and learn so much more along the way."

Participants at the dinner, who provided social interaction for students to polish salutations and networking do's and don't's, included a variety of representatives from the community, including Brandi Anstine, who was with FWC Sports and is now the director of development at Healthlinc, Pam Saylor, employment services manager at Michiana Resources, Jackie Stewart of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Jeff Cunningham, sales manager at Signature Graphics, Jennifer Fraley, branch director at Loving Care Agency, Matt Huner, business development manager at Grayhill, Inc. and Harold Gatlin, president, Gatlin CPA Group.

"Everyone should know that anytime you are seated next to someone you are meeting for the first time, it's important to be aware of the people around you," Simpson said.

"You might not think someone you've just met is related to any area of your interests. But very likely, that same person could be connected or know someone else who is from an area of interest. This is when the magic of proper social interaction, first impressions and knowing how to talk to others can change everything."

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