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Students eat their way through final exam

It wasn't exactly a final exam, but students in Verona Beguin's professional development class at Black Hills State finished the semester by testing their etiquette skills when they dined at Jake's in Deadwood.

Sixteen senior business students spent the spring semester studying topics such as interviewing skills, dressing for the interview, office politics and attitudes, and meal manners and etiquette.

The chance for a formal dining experience was a capstone experience. Students, faculty and friends arrived at Jake's a half an hour before the regular opening to get some special attention, including an explanation of the meal, seating protocol and proper dining procedures. Students were paired with faculty members “to keep the small talk going and to share personal experiences,” said Beguin. “The students loved it; many haven't been to Jake's.”

Beguin says students from a rural state such as South Dakota don't often have the opportunity to dine at a formal eating establishment. We wanted to give our seniors a chance to experience formal dining because many times during job interviews clients (or recent graduates) are expected to attend a lunch or dinner as part of the hiring process.

“We've read about it (dining etiquette), we've had handouts, and now we practice,” said Beguin. “They're dressing up and going out.”

Many of the students, particularly the younger students don't know food, or what to do with the silverware; they don't know whether they should or should not cut up all the meat at one time. College students are used to eating standing up or grabbing a T.V. dinner.

“We're good at meat, potatoes, and gravy, but you get outside of that and you're lost,” said the business professor. “We decided the menu items to introduce them to new things.”

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For senior accounting major Ryan Maher the dining experience was very worthwhile.

Growing up in western South Dakota, I didn't have opportunities like that (formal dining),” said Maher. “I now have a better understanding of silverware layout and place settings. `Sorbet,' I'd never heard of that. I was fascinated by the fact that it's supposed to cleanse the palate in preparation for the main course.”

The Isabel native said even wearing a suit and tie while dining out takes practice.

Now that he has completed the course, the experience will be put to good use as he has accepted a job in Omaha, Neb., as an auditor with the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and will ultimately be traveling about the country.

For Kit Fanning, a nontraditional student from Spearfish who is majoring in accounting, the dining experience was something with which she was familiar.

I had an advantage because my father exposed me to this type of dining,” she said. “It was beneficial for the younger students, many of whom will go out across the U. S. searching for jobs. It's good exposure.”

Fanning said the class was valuable from a practical aspect. How to field questions and how to dress were equally as important as etiquette.

Both students said they will take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination this fall to further their careers. Interviewing, dining etiquette, fielding questions and proper dress will more than likely become a part of their every-day experience. How to seat guests and what to do with that extra spoon and fork will become routine.

Now that they're polished, the students might heed British novelist Somerset Maugham's advice, “At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.”