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ECU Notes: Course reinforces etiquette, behavior before graduation

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Marilyn Ross, associate food services director with Aramark, demonstrates the proper use of knives and forks at an etiquette class.

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By ECU News Service

Sunday, December 3, 2017

An East Carolina University course is reinforcing table manners, business dress and effective communication as students prepare for spring internships and graduation.

Kelli Russell, instructor in the College of Health and Human Performance, began teaching the Department of Health Education and Promotion’s community strategies class last fall, when she added an etiquette luncheon component. This semester, 96 students are enrolled in the course, which is supported by a $1,000 BB&T Active Learning and Leadership Grant.

Students learn how to dress in business attire on a budget, communicate with people from various backgrounds and create a LinkedIn profile. A similar class has been required in ECU’s College of Business since 2011.

In October, health education students attended a catered luncheon requiring professional dress and interaction. Marilyn Ross, associate food services director with Aramark, presented dining etiquette during a three-course meal in the Croatan’s Green Room.

“Soon you’re going to be networking with individuals as you’re eating lunch or dinner,” Russell said. “Now’s the time to learn from your mistakes.”

Ross’ rules were straightforward. Be on time. Better to dress up than down. Make sure garments fit well and no undergarments show. If nametags are prepared, place on your left side for natural line of sight. Introduce yourself as people arrive at your table. Don’t rearrange place cards to sit closer to someone you know.

“Chances are, the person you’re sitting beside is someone who can help you or your company further down the road,” said Ross. “Always be courteous and gracious. You want to represent yourself well.”

Senior Ivan Ortega of Newton said afterward that the class has been extremely beneficial. “We learn a lot of the things that you’re expected to know going into a professional field,” he said. “I went to a gala last year so it was like this. Otherwise I would be completely lost with all the cups and forks.”

From government to nonprofit agencies, students will work with the public to create healthy behavior change and build self-efficacy, Russell said. Some duties may require networking over lunch or advocating with key community stakeholders or elected officials. “They need to be a chameleon and adapt to their surroundings,” Russell said.

She said it’s not unusual for one or two students each semester to confide that they’ve never sat at a table with a linen tablecloth or used more than one fork at a meal.

“You see growth from the first day of class,” Russell said.

During the luncheon, Ross demonstrated European or Continental and American-style use of utensils, and gave students pointers on the typical place setting, from bread plates to dessert forks.

“Electronics should be left in your car, in a bag or pocket,” Ross said. “Turn it off. If it’s on vibrate, you will still be tempted to check it. Your focus should be on the people there with you.”

The College of Business also offers a similar course for juniors and seniors, which is required for business majors before graduation. Each semester, 275-300 students participate, said Sharon Justice, teaching instructor in business.

Course objectives include being able to discuss why professionalism and business etiquette matter, to demonstrate appropriate workplace conduct, and to recognize that every encounter – whether in person, written or verbal – portrays an image.

Every student completes a practice interview with a recruiter or hiring manager and develops an “elevator pitch,” a succinct summary to create interest in an organization or individual. The semester culminates with two professional networking dinners, each attended by 150 students and about 50 business professionals aimed at allowing students to ask questions and get advice.

Nursing’s Skipper wins Governor’s Award for Public Service

At ECU, Michelle Skipper is a trusted faculty member, colleague and friend, but to many in the town of St. Pauls, she is a hero.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which killed 25 people in North Carolina and devastated large swaths of the eastern part of the state in October 2016, many were left without food, potable water and shelter.

Skipper, director of the ECU College of Nursing’s doctor of nursing practice program and a clinical associate professor, stepped in to help care for her community’s most vulnerable residents, ensuring they had enough food, water and medication to weather the storm’s wake.

She was recognized with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service during a ceremony on Nov. 7 in Raleigh at the North Carolina Museum of History. The award is North Carolina’s highest honor for state employees.

St. Pauls, the small town just north of Lumberton in Robeson County where Skipper and her husband Bruce live, was among the areas hardest hit by Matthew.

More than 500 people who were forced from their homes — and, in some cases, from their cars on the nearby interstate that flooded — took shelter at St. Pauls High School from Oct. 9-17, according to the Skippers. More than 200 others made trips to the school for meals each day. Power outages in some parts of Robeson County lasted more than a week.

The Skippers towed their pig-cooker to the school, where they stayed from 5:30 a.m. until dark for seven straight days, feeding the crowd three meals daily with the help of fellow church and community members. They also delivered plates to the senior citizen and public housing complexes in town three times per day.

While Bruce grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and other items from the school cafeteria’s freezers, and others from the community cooked in the school kitchen, Michelle worked to ensure that everyone had their medication and special dietary needs met.

“I was able to use my nursing background and the dietary part of my nursing training,” she said. “We got the people who didn’t have any way to get out. So we got people who were on dialysis, who were on oxygen, who were diabetic. There were all kinds of medical needs.”

When the Skippers made their way back home from the school in the evenings, Michelle brought people’s dirty clothes with her, washing them and bringing them back the next day.

Skipper said she was humbled, surprised and grateful to receive the award.

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