George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason students gobble down a lesson on dinnertime manners

February 4, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

LaDonna Myers talks to students during an etiquette dinner hosted by the School of Business as part of their ProfessionalQuest series. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Office of Communications and Marketing

Amanda Meadows, a sophomore finance major, said she had no idea what to do with all the utensils laid out before her in the formal place setting. Kayla Shelton, a senior in the Honors College and a marketing major, was trying to coordinate talking while eating. 

And Camelia Matar, a freshman accounting major, didn’t know exactly when to put her napkin in her lap.

All their questions about table manners were answered during an etiquette dinner on Jan. 29, sponsored by the School of Business Office of Career Services. Held at George’s at the Johnson Center, the dinner was intended to guide participants through the rules of proper etiquette during formal situations, such as job interviews and networking events. Fifty-three Mason students and alumni attended.

“Knowing the little details of protocol and etiquette can help you be more polished and confident in both business and social settings,” said LaDonna Myers, an expert in military protocol and etiquette trainer for the duration of the meal. “It’s not rocket science. It’s basic manners, but the simple things can make a difference in how you are regarded.”  

The Office of Career Services designed the etiquette dinner as a fun way to teach students and alumni how to behave with professional manners during interviews and in workplace settings. The dinner is the first in a series of networking events being held this spring. 

“We know that across all business industries, social skills can make or break someone’s career," said Kaleb Lewis, associate director of career services at Mason’s business school. 

“Employers are looking for general professional soft skills,” said Lewis. “Do the job applicants make good eye contact? Can they hold themselves well in casual environments so they won’t be an embarrassment when representing the firm?”

Myers spent the three-course meal going from table to table to give attendees manners advice and answer their questions. In addition to engaging with the etiquette tips, students used the time to network with each other.

Matar said she appreciated the opportunity to educate herself on the nuances of meal manners.

“If you are sharing a meal with a stranger, you should know how to eat properly,” said Matar. “My mother taught me not to put your elbows on the table and not to make sounds when I eat, but I’m looking to learn even more than what she taught me.”

Wendell Hara, a sophomore majoring in information systems and operations management, said, “I’m being fed, so we’re good.”

And Hae Won Ryoo, a junior in management, enthusiastically peppered Myers with questions. Ryoo said she learned a number of helpful etiquette tips, such as always passing the salt and pepper together.

“I learned that you should say ‘excuse me,’ when you need to go to the bathroom, not ‘I need to go to the bathroom,’” said Ryoo. “You don’t need to explain yourself.”

Lewis said that the demand for this year’s etiquette dinner was so high that there was a waitlist for individuals interested in participating.

“That’s a good problem to have, in my opinion,” Lewis added.