Natasha Gomez, a junior in kinesiology and health, and more than 50 of her peers practiced their poise during a recent etiquette dinner at Iowa State. Photo by Ryan Riley.

College of Human Sciences students gain workplace readiness skills at etiquette dinner

Human Sciences students are making strides in their career preparation that would make etiquette expert Emily Post proud.

More than 50 students participated Thursday in an etiquette dinner, a collaboration between the college’s career services office and the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Student guests represented every College of Human Sciences department and school.

“Multiple alumni have come back saying they had interviews over dinner,” said Caitlyn Greenspan, a senior in athletic training. “I had no experience with professional dinners, so I wanted to gain some valuable skills in that regard.”

Students were treated to a free 30-minute lesson and formal meal in the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom during its spring dinner hours. The event allowed them to attend a “dress-up” affair in a supportive environment and practice their newly gained knowledge among their peers.

Tammy Stegman, the director of the College of Human Sciences’ career services office, said that the dinner is just one way that the college develops global citizens and a strong workforce by helping students present themselves in a professional manner.

“We work with students at all levels — it’s our job and our mission,” Stegman said. “It’s all under the realm of developing yourself professionally. That doesn’t just mean résumés or interview preparation, or negotiating a job offer. It means also presenting yourself professionally and not embarrassing yourself.”

Ardyce “Ardie” Roehr, a 1957 graduate in home economics education who led the lesson, stressed the importance of a professional presentation. She’s a former executive director of the Iowa Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“Ardie understands the stage where college students are,” said Erica Beirman, a senior lecturer in food science and human nutrition who coordinates the culinary food science program. “She understands their natural lack of experience with formal business settings — so she relates everything back to an interview or a professional networking gathering.”

Roehr said that a person’s poise at a meal is indicative of other character qualities.

“Body language can often speak louder than actual words,” Roehr said. “How you conduct yourself while eating can also share how you might work as a team player or how you might serve others.”

Sophomore nutritional science major Toluwani Awokoya said that one’s qualifications for a job only go so far, and that first impressions count.

“It is really important for students to take advantage of programs such as this to prepare themselves for future careers,” he said. “Even though you might have really good qualifications, etiquette can play a big role in job selection. You don’t want it to take away from your scholarly achievements. First impressions go a long way.”

Matt Ocheltree, a senior in hospitality management, has seen the importance of strong etiquette skills firsthand during his work experiences at the Iowa State president’s residence.

“I work at The Knoll, so I have knowledge about serving in a fine dining environment and using proper etiquette,” he said. “It’s all about professionalism. I’m soon to be an ISU alumnus and I want to present myself as a business professional when the opportunity arises.”

Attending a low-pressure, yet formal event with friends can open the door into the career services office for some students. Amanda Schickel, the College of Human Sciences recruiting and career coordinator, said that some students are more comfortable with people they know.

“At the dinner, students could come with their friends,” she said. “During appointments with us, they come meet with us one-on-one — which is great for them, but it can be a little more intimidating. Participating in an event like this with a group of people makes some students more comfortable.”

Natasha Gomez, a junior in kinesiology and health, said she is thankful for all of the opportunities the career services office provides.

“Career services programs are a great way to get involved with your college,” she said. “They also teach such valuable skills that you might not get to learn in any college classes.”