A recent college graduate enters a four-star restaurant for a formal lunch interview with the hopes of landing that top-tier consulting job. She sits down, unsure which fork to pick up first or which water glass is hers.
A young analyst walks into his first formal networking event after starting a new job. He finds himself feeling nervous and out of place, hesitant to begin making connections with his new colleagues.
The Tepper School of Business — known for its rigorous, quantitative coursework and the ability to equip students with a wide variety of technical skills prior to graduation — is working to alleviate these types of issues for its undergraduate students. Each year, the school educates students on a variety of “behavioral skills,” including networking, communication, leadership and more. The Undergraduate Business Administration and Economics programs use a variety of strategies and events to teach these skills.
This semester, the Business Administration first-years participated in the annual Etiquette Dinner, designed to teach students the polite and proper way to behave during a formal meal, such as professional lunches, dinner meetings and interviews.
Upon arriving at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Club, each student was presented with a pocket etiquette guide and an assigned seat. The learning experience started immediately, as students were taught to stand behind their designated chair and wait for everyone to enter the room before taking a seat.
As the night went on, the students were guided through a formal meal and taught the ins and outs of business dining — which fork to use for the salad, which spoon to use for dessert. The lesson was led by Mistress of Ceremonies Evelyn Pierce, teaching professor of business management communication, along with the help of student lead Roma Desai.
"Even in their first year as business students, our freshmen begin learning business fundamentals that will sustain them for a lifetime of successes. But, as a school, we don't limit this learning to analytics and problem solving,” Pierce explained.
“Instead, we help our students embrace the ability to behave with grace and attentiveness, and understand these life skills are priceless. The Etiquette Dinner is just one opportunity for this — and a grand one — done in business formal fashion with great food, conversation and atmosphere.”
“Tepper School events such as the Etiquette Dinner show the school’s commitment to developing students’ academic skills and people skills; having an early start toward developing our professional skills only helps us to familiarize ourselves with the standard practices faster,” first-year Anthony Su said of the event.
For Su, the dinner helped him understand what will be expected of him upon entering the professional world and a formal business environment, and gave him the opportunity to practice these skills in a “low-risk environment.”
“My advisor was sitting right next to me, and I thought it was nice that we had someone that could talk about their experiences in networking and dinner events similar to this, and share her past stories,” he said.
“When networking and interviewing our students, employers want to hire people they actually enjoy being with, not just the smartest people in the room,” Pierce said. “Our students are delightful people, and their learning traditional social expectations that we label ‘etiquette’ helps employers experience their charm and smarts.”
Each spring semester the business administration and economics students also participate in the Tepper Ball, an evening of dining and dancing in a formal venue, giving students the opportunity to experience proper social behavior expected at such an event.
“It’s a fun, elegant event for Tepper School students to mingle with their peers and advisors, as well as practice etiquette skills,” said Megan Yelsangikar, a sophomore economics student who was on the planning committee for the Tepper Ball.
The Tepper Ball features a three-course meal at the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, followed by a reception with networking and dancing.
“I think these events are important for Tepper School students because they enhance the student experience as a whole,” Yelsangikar added. “It’s so enriching to be able to meet new people within the school and spend time with them in a context that isn’t necessarily academic.”
The Business Administration and Economics programs will wrap up the academic year with one last formal networking event in May: the Senior Wine Tasting, where seniors will get to practice their business etiquette one final time before heading out into the professional world. This annual event affords graduating students the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments, interact with faculty and the deans outside of the classroom, and socialize with classmates before Commencement.