By: Ryan McLaughlin
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Students and several professionals from Penn State New Kensington learned about proper etiquette over a four-course dinner on March 31.
The Etiquette Dinner is a traditional event at the Penn State New Kensington campus, but the sponsors have changed hands over the years. This year, Student Government Association and Career Services co-sponsored the event for the students.
Danielle Richardson, Vice President of Student Government Association, helped to co-organize the event.“ This is my first year actually attending and co-organizing the event, so it was unique for me,” Richardson said.
She said that she felt the event was successful. “Last year they had around 20 something people who attended, as opposed to this year, we had around 50 plus people,” Richardson said.
Michael Daly and Jennifer Phillips both attended the Etiquette Dinner in previous years. They both said that were attracted by the food and possibility for new tips. “Food’s always good, and you never know what kind of new thing you might learn,” Phillips said.
They also enjoyed speaker, Marc Schuler, that was there for the dinner. “He did a good job,” Daly said. “He kept you engaged.” “He was really energetic,” Phillips agreed. “He liked to joke a little bit. He kept it fun.”
The speaker was a last minute change, according to Richardson. “Melissa Spencer (the original speaker) fell very ill, so they had to find somebody else,” she explained. “He was still involved with the AVI. He’s the resident director at CCAC (Community College of Allegheny County).”
Richardson also agreed that Schuler did a fantastic job. “He had a very nice presence. He was very upbeat and very engaging.”
Attendants were treated to a full, four-course dinner. Salads were already waiting at the table as students entered, along with glasses of water and tea. Once the salads were completed, servers came around and took the plates away, replacing them with wedding soup. As the attendants ate, the speaker talked about the proper etiquette for each course, such as which fork is the salad fork.
Following the soup course, attendants received either their selection of chicken or shrimp. Here, the proper etiquette was to begin eating, even if the whole table was not served. The speaker explained that this was fine, because it is better to eat a dish while it is hot, rather than wait and have it cool. It would be disrespectful to the chef.
For desert, attendants received a chocolate dish inside of a chocolate cup, garnished with caramel and an edible flower. The speaker said that it was fine to eat the garnish, but not in one solid bite.
Director of Student Affairs, Theresa Bonk, also attended this year’s dinner. “I particularly enjoyed this year, I think, because of the alumni and professionals that were invited and then strategically placed at every table with students and professional staff and faculty,” she said.
Several alumni and professionals were invited to the dinner, as well. This was to give students a chance to network with others outside of the school. “I think adding that element really raises the level and the bar for the dinner,” Bonk said. “I really appreciate the work that was done to get those folks here.”
Bonk also commented on the design of the program. “On the back of the program were some gentle reminders about networking at the dinner,” Bonk said. “Danielle did a nice job of including them.”
Throughout the dinner, students and professionals asked a myriad of questions about etiquette. The speaker covered a wide variety of topics, including what might be proper etiquette in one part of the world, and what might not be proper etiquette in another. It was a very educational night for those that may not understand the intricacies of proper etiquette.
“It’s a situation that pretty much all of us are going to be in at some point,” Phillips said. “We get invited to a fancy dinner, and we have to be a little more proper than we might be in day-to-day life. ”
Bonk also recommends the dinner for the experience. “We shouldn’t make assumptions that everyone has had that kind of experience,” she said. “It’s good to have that kind of experience here, where we can experiment.”