Nearly 200 students and table hosts gathered on Feb. 27 for Radford University's professional protocol dinner, organized by the office of Career Services and Community Engagement.
"Success doesn’t just happen—it requires diligence, planning and practice," university President Penelope W. Kyle said as she welcomed the group to the event in the Muse Banquet Room. "Knowing how to interact with people in social situations, whether they are clients, subordinates, supervisors or colleagues, will be critical to making connections, creating a positive impression and making other people feel comfortable around you."
Linda Whitley-Taylor '86, rector of the Radford University Board of Visitors, was a special guest at the protocol dinner.
The popular annual event, sponsored by RU Dining Services and Chartwells, is designed to provide students entering the workforce with dining and etiquette skills that will put them at ease in interview, business and networking situations.
Kathleen Harshberger, director of University Advancement for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, was the training officer for the evening. A graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, Harshberger cited statistics showing that only 15 percent of workplace success is dependent on job skills. The remaining 85 percent is due to personal skills that can be learned and practiced to build confidence.
Putting students at ease by emphasizing that "there are no stupid questions," Harshberger explained that even as simple a matter as buttering a roll can be awkward at a formal event. The key, she explained, is to proceed one bite at a time: "No butter sandwiches."
Laura Pope of Roanoke, a master's degree candidate in industrial-organizational psychology, found the event to be both beneficial and fun. "The skills we learned will definitely be transferable to many different types of situations we'll encounter in the future."
The table hosts also found value in the experience.
"I have attended for a number of years," said Tod Burke, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, "but every time is a new experience. What we learn becomes a teachable moment for all of us."
The day after the event, Burke met with a student and had an opportunity to share business-card techniques he had heard the night before. "He was so appreciative, and I was as excited as he was. We all do what we can to help our students succeed."