Guest column: Student talks about Catawba’s ‘Manners Matter’ dinner
By Brianna Allison
Catawba College freshman
Note: Career Services at Catawba College hosts a “Manner Matter” dinner each December to give students the experience of fine dining, while learning proper etiquette. Robin Perry, director of career services, said this year students came dressed up, enjoyed a delicious meal, learned something new about manners at the table and had fun. Catawba freshman Brianna Allison attended her first “Manners Matter” dinner and shared her impressions.
In the society we live in, manners are noticed and viewed more than ever, from eating with the appropriate silverware, to the men standing whenever a woman leaves the table. Every year, Career Services at Catawba College hosts a “Manners Matter Dinner.” The goal of the dinner is to equip students with the skills and proper etiquette when at a table in the professional world.
Catawba alumna Shari Graham ’83 and her longtime friend Henrietta Henderlite, both of Salisbury, came and spoke to the students and shared their tips on how to sit, eat and speak at the table. Catawba students were told to “dress to impress” while they enjoyed dinner catered by Chartwells, the college’s food service provider.
The dinner started promptly at 6 p.m. There were a variety of students from different backgrounds, academic majors and countries all gathered together. Dr. Darin Spencer, an accounting professor at Catawba, Dr. Pamela Thompson, an IT professor, Jennifer Board, career programing coordinator, and Robin Perry, director of career services, served as wait staff.
At my table, we had a diverse group of students, which made for interesting conversations and laughs. Upon entering the Hurley Room, students were warmly greeted. As we walked in, we saw the tables elegantly set, including a place card at every plate. One of the most interesting things is that we were separated — no one sat with the person who arrived with them. I felt that this was important because the students were forced to get out of their shells and communicate with others they really did not know.
Throughout each course, there were brief, but educational talks on just what to do. Just like in a fancy restaurant, we had a four course meal: soup, salad, entree and dessert.
Tomato basil soup was served first. While eating the soup, we had to watch carefully how we handled the spoon, slowly moving it to our mouth and not leaning into the bowl.
A Caesar salad was next. We had students from different parts of the world who were accustomed to handling their forks and knives differently while eating salad or cutting food. The struggle for me was not to push the croutons over using my hands to get them on my fork.
The main entrée arrived — chicken francése with bow tie pasta and steamed broccoli. With it, Graham and Henderlite taught the students both the American and European way to eat, allowing students to practice both ways. If you looked closely you would notice that many of the men, even if they were American, ate the European way and it seemed like they were eating faster.
Throughout the meal, we were encouraged to spark conversation. We learned that when communicating at the table there are topics you should not bring up, such as religion and politics. Do not bring up things that could possibly offend someone or has no connection to your work.
What stood out the most was the practice of men standing up when a women came to or left the table. For some students, they felt that it was embarrassing and very overrated, but for others, they realized how much our generation has lost the appreciation of good manners. To me, it felt nice to be shown respect.
This dinner was a new experience for many students. Some came to the table thinking they knew the rules, but they learned there was much more to good manners. Brad Dowdall, a junior at from the UK, sat at my table. He is an accounting major and knows in the future he may be participating in meetings over dinner.
The goal of this dinner was to prepare individuals for future endeavors. You never know if your boss is going to take you out for lunch or your future employer wants to do the hiring process over dinner. Whatever it is, your manners make a difference.