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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

ICC allocates $7,500 for etiquette dinner for STEM undergraduates from underrepresented communities


Concern over dinner cost, student benefits weighed

The Internship and Career Center at UC Davis held the “Shine While You Dine” event at the Center for Chicanx and Latinx Academic Student Success on May 10 to provide dining etiquette training for undergraduate STEM majors.

The dinner brought together approximately 70 UC Davis students from different STEM majors to learn about dining etiquette and how to conduct business conversations in a simulated professional setting. The dinner also featured Syndi Seid, a professional trainer from a business called Advanced Etiquette.

The cost of the dinner drew concern from Atanas Spasov, a third-year economics and mathematics double major and a member of the ASUCD Senate.

“I was at the Council on Student Affairs and Fees meeting, and we received information that the ICC received a $100,000 grant from Chevron, of which $7,500 was going toward an etiquette dinner which [would] be a three-course meal to teach students how to behave properly during a business meeting,” Spasov said. “[The dinner] possibly could have been useful, but in my opinion, it was frankly a waste of money that [could have been] used for much better projects to benefit more people on campus.”

Spasov recognized that although the money that was used for the event did not come out of student fees, he felt the money “could have definitely been used for a better purpose.”

“I feel like there are many ways that students can learn about the business world especially here on campus,” Spasov said, “For example, I was part of the Economics and Business Students Association for a year. I am also part of the Finance Investment Club. There are many other ways which you can really immerse yourself in the business world and learn how to act properly than spending $7,500 on an etiquette dinner.”

Luis Esparza, the assistant director of the Internship and Career Center, provided details on the purpose of the dinner.

“The ‘Shine While You Dine’ dinner was a new event,” Esparza said. “It was a dinner etiquette training event focused on helping students better understand dinner etiquette so that they can be more comfortable and confident in professional settings, be it at a formal dinner, a professional conference or maybe [when] they are being interviewed.”

Esparza said that the dinner provided students with “a tool to be more confident in those settings.”

When asked about how the “Shine While You Dine” dinner came to be, Esparza reflected on his experience as a first-generation college student, a graduate at UC Davis and now as an assistant director and advisor at the ICC.

“I hear [perspectives] from students based on my personal experience as a first-generation college grad and some of those things that I had a challenge with when I was going here,” Esparza said.

Esparza realized that if a student knew how to conduct themselves during a formal dinner situation, it could help them with their professional conduct.

Regarding the student groups that were reached out to for the dinner, Esparza said that they looked primarily at “those groups that have students in the STEM areas” as well as “students and organizations [from] underserved or underrepresented communities” such as “the Chicano and Latino Engineering and Sciences Society, Society for Women Engineers, Black Engineers Association.”

The dinner was made possible by a grant of $100,000 given to the ICC by the Chevron Corporation, of which approximately $7,500 was allocated for the dinner.

“We were able to offer this program in part because of a grant from Chevron,” Esparza said. “They support programs nationwide to encourage people currently underrepresented in STEM fields to pursue these disciplines in which there are great career prospects. Part of the emphasis of this event was to provide students interested in pursuing careers in the sciences, engineering and other physical sciences information on what to expect during professional meetings/interviews over a meal. We wanted to demystify the process so students can focus on the conversations, not which fork to use.  Some students who were not in the STEM field attended, but the majority of participants are studying STEM disciplines.”

In an email interview with Marcie Kirk Holland, the director of the ICC, she offered details on the cost of the dinner.

“The budget for the event was $7,500,” Holland said via email. “We are finalizing accounting, but anticipate the event was about $1,000 under that budget. It was a pilot to see how we could deliver the content in a broader and more cost effective way.  It is a topic that all of us benefit from hearing, for the first time, or as a refresher. We want students to be as comfortable in interview situations as possible. If we can take away anxiety about which fork to use and other protocol issues, our students can focus on the conversations and interactions, which means more opportunity to ‘Shine’ while they dine.”

Cirilo Cortez, the director of the Chicanx and Latinx Retention Initiative and the Student Center, spoke about his department’s contribution to the dinner.

“Initially, having the event at [the] center was one of our objectives to empower students by preparing them with preparation for what life will be like after they graduate,” Cortez said. “We do a lot of collaboration with the ICC, so, with a grant from Chevron, the idea was to bring a professional who is very familiar with dinner etiquette. Since the mission of the [ICC] program was to provide these opportunities to underrepresented students given we serve one of the Chicanx populations, it was very appropriate for us to host it here and open that up to the larger community as well so that we can create awareness of the new center.”

Cortez then offered his thoughts on the dinner.

“I think that these opportunities are very effective and beneficial,” Cortez said. “I think about my experience as an undergrad and not having too many of these opportunities in front of me and how I would have benefitted from having those as an undergrad going into my professional career. Skills that we take for granted [… are] so important when you are networking and getting to know future supervisors and colleagues in the professional world.”



Written by: George Liao — campus@theaggie.org



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