Excerpt by Philip Peker, Smith Class of 2018

As hundreds of polished freshman Smith students filed into the Riggs Alumni Center on a brisk April evening for their final Smith Start event, there was a celebratory feeling of accomplishment shared by all. On Thursday, April 23, 2015, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business partnered with The Etiquette Institute of Washington to give business freshman students a taste of the professional world through the Smith Start Etiquette Dinner, a culminating occasion to round out the Smith Start program.

As Crystal Bailey, director of The Etiquette Institute of Washington, took the stage, loud talking turned to murmurs turned to a sweeping silence. Crystal, a graduate of Howard University and a former successful attorney, carried herself in a sophisticated but approachable way. She began the evening with a few words about how important it is to be mindful of etiquette, and how useful it is in the professional world. The workshop was taught side by side with the meal. Starting with a zesty spring salad, Crystal went over some ground rules about sitting, posture and breaking the ice with fellow guests. As the main course was rolled out, a tantalizing chicken over seasoned asparagus and rice creation, Crystal covered topics such as utensil signaling, difficult foods, and international eating customs. Come dessert-time, she finished it off with some last minute tips and tricks on how to sell yourself, be presentable, and keep cool in front of big names. “The dinners aren’t about the food, but about building connections,” she said. The food for the evening ended up being too good to ignore. Afterwards, she opened up the floor for a question and answer session, and several students stood up to pose questions that, in other circumstances would seem awkward, but thanks to Crystal’s humility, no one was afraid to ask.