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A night of food and networking

Johnson+State+College%27s+Sodexo+staff+set+a+fancy+dinner+place+at+the+%22Dinner+With+the+Boss%22+event+March+21.+Alumni+came+to+Stearns+Performance+Space+to+dine+with+and+give+advice+to+current+students.
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A night of food and networking

Johnson State College's Sodexo staff set a fancy dinner place at the

Johnson State College's Sodexo staff set a fancy dinner place at the "Dinner With the Boss" event March 21. Alumni came to Stearns Performance Space to dine with and give advice to current students.

Johnson State College's Sodexo staff set a fancy dinner place at the "Dinner With the Boss" event March 21. Alumni came to Stearns Performance Space to dine with and give advice to current students.

Johnson State College's Sodexo staff set a fancy dinner place at the "Dinner With the Boss" event March 21. Alumni came to Stearns Performance Space to dine with and give advice to current students.

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Once a year, Johnson State College administration hosts a night of food and networking, inviting successful alumni to share insight and advice with soon-to-be graduates. The Stearns Performance Space was full Thursday evening, March 21, housing a crowd that included 12 guest speakers and about 35 students. The event is called “Dinner with the Boss,” and JSC’s own Sudexo employees serve a three-course meal over the two-hour period.

The alumni asked to speak were Tammy Ellis ’06, Zack Key ’09, Tuipate Mubiay ‘05, Tanya Sousa ’90, Trevor Whipple ’93, Sarah Greene ’03, Jonathan “Woody” Wood ’78, John “Tad” Nunez ’80, Gar Anderson ’67, Laurie Berryman ’88, Jeffrey “Jeff” Simone ’01, and Zachary “Zack” Young ’00.

The purpose of “Dinner with the Boss” is to prepare students for success after college, providing the training for social situations that the classroom can’t. Starting the evening, Director of Development & Alumni Relations Lauren Philie spoke to the crowd on the importance of grace under pressure. At a business luncheon, she said, it’s important to be able focus on the person who is speaking.

“Etiquette is more than knowing what fork to use or when to put the napkin in your lap,” she said. “It does include, among other things, the ability to put others at ease in a social or professional environment.”

The “Boss,” JSC President Barbara Murphy, also gave tips. Holding up each hand so the index fingers stood upright while the rest of her fingers and thumbs made a circle, her left hand formed the letter b while her right formed the letter d.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever learned,” she said. “Put your hands beside your plate. Your left side is your bread and butter plate – thus the ‘b’- and your right side is your drink and desert – the ‘d.’ It’s everything you need to know about formal dining.”

At a business dinner, talk to the people near you, she said. Know how to dress before showing up. Thank and acknowledge your server. If you feel pressured to drink alcohol when you don’t want to, you don’t want to work with them. And finally, she said, a negative impression is less likely to be from using the wrong piece of cutlery but more likely to be about being ungracious or not trying to reach out to table companions.

The night’s atmosphere was semi-formal and people were dressed up, including the tables set with delicate plates, fine-dining cutlery, and artistically folded napkins perched at each seat. Each table had one or two alumni, students filled the rest, and occupants were encouraged to network as they ate their meals; first a salad, then roasted chicken or the vegetarian choice of penne with spinach and smoked Gouda, both served with roasted asparagus and diced vegetables. Desert was cheesecake with a single, sliced strawberry.

After the dinner, each alumnus went to the microphone to share words of wisdom, or “little gems.” Twelve people had different ideas to share, of course, but one simple theme summed them up: Be nice.

“My list is for career, jobs, and life,” said Wood, the first speaker, and a certified forester in Jeffersonville. “Just be a good person… Be considerate of other people. Be dependable; show up. Be on time. Be respectful of others. Be presentable. Be prepared. Listen to other people. Turn off your devices. Be humble, and give credit to others. Be honest. Be caring of other people. And be yourself. These are the attributes of personal integrity.”

Both guest speakers and student s lingered while dishes were being cleared to talk more, or connect with others who hadn’t been at their table. Ry Beverage, JSC senior and a studio arts major, sought out Sousa, writer and author of “Life is a Bowl of Cherry Pits,” for advice about digital marketing.

“She told me instead of waiting for a job opportunity to present itself or find a place that has an opening, she told me to go to somebody and show them what they don’t have,” he said. “So instead of looking for a place that is hiring a marketing assistant, I should go to someone and say, ‘This looks shabby and I could do this for you.’… I had never thought of that before. It’s genius.”

Ellis, a former external degree program student who majored in business management, came for the second year in a row to talk to students who will soon be starting their career lives.

“Having people who have been out in the workforce with successful careers have a lot of insight and have learned a lot of life-lessons the hard way,” she said. “To be able to pass this on to other people and save them aggravation is the pay-it-forward concept. When people have a measure of success it’s almost an onus upon them to share it with other people and give them a hand-up.”

 

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