UB Grads Learn the Fine Art of Selecting the Right Fork

The Daily Record; Wednesday, May 9, 2001

By Laura Fick

You may think an invitation to lunch by a potential employer is just a nice gesture, but as 70 University of Baltimore students learned Monday night, he actually may be watching to see how you hold your fork.

The students, most of whom are graduating seniors, were treated to a free meal at Viccino's Bistro in Mount Vernon, where throughout their five-course dinner they were instructed on proper business etiquette, like how to correctly eat bread and which silverware to use in certain situations.

Employers "will assume if you don't know the rules for the table, you don't know other rules, too," said Carol Haislip, director of the Phoenix, Md.-based International School of Protocol, who presented the dining techniques.

The workshop, called the "Backpack to Briefcase Etiquette Dinner," was presented by the UB's Career Center and the Center for Student Involvement and was funded by a $1,000 donation from McCormick and Co. Inc.

In the context of an interview luncheon or corporate event, the students were taken through each business-dining step from the appropriate handshake and pre-dinner socializing to how to remove unwanted food from their mouths.

"I think…it gives them a comfort level," said Haislip, who spent 20 years working in human resources and running training programs at First National Bank of Maryland, now Allfirst Financial Inc. "They're not going to worry about doing the right thing. They can think about what they are saying instead of what fork they are using."

According to officials at the university, the dinner, which also was held last year, was met with enormous enthusiasm from students. The spots filled 48 hours after it was announced, with 30 people signing onto a waiting list.

"They're getting a free five-course dinner. College students love free food," said Susan Luchey, director of the Center for Student Involvement. "They also learn practical skills that they can take immediately into the world of work."

According to Buthaina Shukri, director of the Career Center, the event also met with such interest because the skills that were taught are essential to being successful in the professional community.

"If you are to be effective in the business world then you really need to be polished in every aspect you can be," she said. "It gives you yet another skills in your business arsenal."

While Paula Brand, a graduate student and assistant at the Career Center, might not use the skills she learned at Monday's dinner in everyday life, she did feel it was useful to learn proper etiquette.

"I think it's valid," she said. "Some little things probably wouldn't blow the whole interview. If you screwed up some of those things, though, the employer might think, 'Hmmm... do we really want that person?"