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Lessons in dining etiquette at K-College


by Jane Parikh

Business dining etiquette was on the menu at a dinner for Kalamazoo College seniors last fall.

With copies of a 77-year-old etiquette book on a nearby table, Meredith Parfet, director of Global Research Operations for MPI Research in nearby Mattawan, instructed about 100 “K” seniors on the intricacies of eating with the boss, business colleagues, or prospective employers.

She said the positioning of the knives, forks, and spoons at each place setting provides a visual guide to the order in which each eating utensil is used.
“It’s outside in and top to bottom,” Parfet said.

Her instruction on the proper use of tableware was one of several “Ah-hah!” moments for many of the students at the dinner. Another came when Parfet talked about proper napkin etiquette.

“Place the napkin on your lap when you’re seated, place it on your chair when leaving the table, and place the napkin to the left of your plate when you’re done,” she said.

Parfet’s presentation was part of the College’s twice-yearly, two-day Professional Development Institute (PDI) offered to “K” students in order to prepare them for life after graduation. Sponsored by the College’s Center for Career and Professional Development, the Fall Quarter PDI included workshops and seminars on topics such as networking and job hunting.

As a top level executive with MPI, Parfet has attended many business dinners both in the United States and abroad. She said sometimes the best thing to do is what everyone else is doing.

“Manners are a form of politeness. They show that you’re prepared, put together, and composed,” Parfet said. “Manners are also a way of setting things up so you avoid insulting people.

“The rule I always learned in a cross-cultural exchange is to show humility.”
Kathleen Kruse, a senior majoring in biology, said Parfet’s advice put her mind at ease, particularly when she discussed the art of conversation.

“Stick to discussing current events and don’t discuss politics, religion, or sex,” Parfet said. “Try to find some middle ground. People like to talk about themselves and things related to them.”

Tyrice Fitzpatrick said he wished he’d had this information when he was in Costa Rica for his Study Abroad program. Fitzpatrick, a senior majoring in English with an economics minor, said his knowledge of manners was based on what

“We want you to sit at a business dinner and feel confident. We want you to dazzle them.”

he learned while working at a banquet hall during high school.

“When I was in Costa Rica I was surrounded by the most upper class people there, and I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know what kind of conversation to have,” he said.

Offering students the opportunity to learn about an important but often overlooked part of getting along in the business world was the idea behind the Etiquette Dinner, said Kalamazoo College Provost Michael “Mickey” McDonald.

“The more knowledge you have, the more relaxed you’ll feel,” McDonald said.
Here’s some additional advice from Parfet that likely won’t be heard during commencement activities. Graduates who break bread with the boss or clients should dress conservatively, double-check their breath, turn off the cell phone, take a deep breath, and smile.

“We want you to sit at a business dinner and feel confident,” Parfet said. “We want you to dazzle them.”


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K-College alumni offer supportive words

AMAZING THINGSby Jane ParikhWhen Kalamazoo College students march down the Quad and accept their diplomas each June, they also receive membership in the extensive network of “K” alumni.

During Fall Quarter 2010, the College’s Center for Career and Professional Development plugged into this alumni network during the first of two scheduled Professional Development Institutes (PDI) for students wanting to get a jump start on post-graduate plans.

Each PDI engages alumni and other friends of the College in two days of events aimed at helping Kalamazoo students consider and prepare for life after “K.” Through workshops and formal and informal discussions, students meet with alumni and business leaders, and make connections designed to help them find and secure employment opportunities.

During a panel discussion that concluded day-one of the Fall PDI, four alumni put forth a very strong case for the value of a Kalamazoo education. They spoke about experiences they had as “K” students that helped lay the groundwork for their successes in the working world.

“You have no idea how willing alumni are to open their networks to ‘K’ students,” said Douglas Steel ’80, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for U.S. Bioremediation, Inc., headquartered in Salt Lake City. “Whether you realize it or not, you’ve acquired a unique skill set. You’re not going to listen to old people who say ‘That can’t be done.’”

As an example, Steel mentioned fellow “K” classmate Larry Bell ’80, founder of Bell’s Brewing Company in Kalamazoo. “Larry Bell didn’t major in beer-making while at ‘K,’” Steel said. “But, he is proof of what can happen if you have an idea and don’t let the details bog you down.”

Regg Wilson ’70 encouraged students to always emphasize finding their passion. He said this was one of the most important lessons he took away from his time as a student. “One of the great assets ‘K’ gave to me was the knowledge that I could master something in 10 weeks,” said Wilson, founder of Cultivating Your Legacy and president of Los Angeles Philanthropic Advisors Network. “You can be fearless in a relatively short amount of time.”

Surviving the rigors of 10-week quarters and gaining the confidence that goes along with that are valuable commodities in a global economy that demands flexibility and a strong knowledge base. PDI panelists agreed that “K” graduates are thought of very favorably by leaders in the public and private sectors because of their ability to think in a critical and sometimes unconventional manner.

Kalamazoo County Eighth District Court Judge Anne Blatchford ’82 told students that she left “K” a much stronger and more confident individual because of the challenges issued to her throughout her experience with her professors and advisors. She recalled one particularly grueling episode when her SIP (Student Individualized Project) advisor had her rewrite her resume more than a dozen times in preparation for

“One of the great assets ‘K’ gave to me was the knowledge that I could master something in 10 weeks. You can be fearless in a relatively short amount of time.”

her project. He then had her tell him what it takes to represent Kalamazoo College.

When he felt Blatchford was ready, he allowed her to begin work on her SIP. “I had to earn that respect,” Blatchford said. “I learned from that experience that I had the tools I needed, and he showed me how by making me do it. It’s that belief in yourself that you leave ‘K’ with.”

This is what gave Harry Garland ’68 the courage to leave a teaching position at Stanford University to start his own company. Garland now is chairman of Garland Actuarial, LLC , and Agile Sciences, Inc., based in San Francisco.
“Anybody who graduates from this college has tremendous capability,” Garland said. “It’s important for you to realize you have the capability to do amazing things.”

A second PDI for “K” students is scheduled for April 14-15 at the College. For more info on this and other programs sponsored by the Center for Career and Professional Development, call (269) 337-7183, or visit www.kzoo.edu/careerdevelopment.

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