Volume 96, Issue 82
Thursday, March 6, 2003

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How not to be a wanker
New Brunswick teaches etiquette course

By Tom Podsiadlo
Gazette Staff

The administration at the University of New Brunswick, spurred by shocked employer phone calls, has decided to launch an etiquette course to better prepare their students for job interviews.

"You can be technically well qualified for a job, but, if you cannot carry on a conversation or are short on sophistication when it comes to table manners at a business luncheon, you will probably not get the job, " said Yolanda Spithoven, the outreach co-ordinator at UNB, who assists students in finding employment.

"In this day and age, with the rise of communications technology, such as e-mail and cell phones, there has been a decreased emphasis on face to face communication, which has consequences on social skills," Spithoven added.

"The course was originally devised as a mandatory pilot project for first-year students in the forestry department, in reaction to feedback from employers who expressed concern about the social ineptness of many of the applicants," said Kathy Mcfarland, the associate director at UNB. "Since then, interest has spread across campus and it has been expanded into a regular three-week course."

According to Macfarland, etiquette workshops coach students in several areas ranging from the clearly evident, such as why it would not be in an applicant's best interest to show up in rubber boots and a rain coat for a job interview, to the more alluding aspects of a successful interview, such as body language and how to appropriately break a dinner roll when schmoozing with the boss. The course emphasizes social skills, with the aim of helping students achieve a successful interview, she explained.

"While Western does not have an etiquette course per se, it does have workshops for students who have recently arrived in Canada, familiarizing them with traditional business culture," said Ella Strong, director of international student relations at the Richard Ivey School of Business.

"I think an etiquette course would be of benefit to Western students," said Stephanie Grimes, a fourth-year administrative and commercial studies student at Western. "Many people are not aware of the little tricks of the trade that put certain people ahead of the game."

B.J. Vicks, a fourth-year computer science student, said he felt an etiquette course could help a lot of Western students, while noting many already display some very good manners. "There are definitely a lot of [students] in their own little bubble a lot of the time, so [etiquette and manners] aren't displayed as often as they should," he said.

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2002 THE GAZETTE