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Buffalo State College turned into charm school Friday, when 100 students got a crash course in the social graces.

The students enjoyed non-alcoholic "mocktails," an array of appetizers and a five-course gourmet meal intended to challenge their dining etiquette.

They learned the dying art of how to deftly navigate social and business settings, how to dress for success and even how one should remove an inedible piece of food from one's mouth.

"Customer service is so vital because a lot of business is transacted at meals," said Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles, director of the college's Career Development Center. "(Employers) want to make sure you're not going to embarrass them."

Students said they gave up a couple of hours on a Friday night because they hoped to learn the kind of information that everybody else at a business dinner seems to have, or should have.

"Just to get better at the whole small talk thing," said Teri Gleason, a junior transfer student from Lockport who also admitted her knowledge of silverware etiquette was limited.

"I've always heard you go from the outside in," the art history major said, a good rule of thumb as it turns out.

After words of encouragement from Buffalo State President Muriel A. Howard, the students spent two hours learning proper business attire, party behavior and introductions.

Josh Blumberg, general manager of Campus House, warned students not to graze at a buffet -- take two or three items at a time and return if you want more -- and stay away from messy foods.

To remove something inedible from your mouth, discreetly place it in a napkin. And, he said, "If you're not sure about your capacity for alcohol, you definitely shouldn't use this time to be experimental."

After mocktails, the students went into a dining room for a five-course meal.

Paula Elsinghorst, a certified etiquette and protocol consultant from Williamsville, walked the students through each course.

The reception and dinner were put on by Buffalo State's Career Development Center, the college's department of hospitality and tourism, the campus chapter of the National Society for Minorities in Hospitality and the college's Auxiliary and Dining Services.


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