Professors and student gather at a Vita Nova table at the 2024 AGCelerate Etiquette Dinner.
The AGcelerate etiquette dinner at Vita Nova occurs annually with the aim of helping students gain etiquette skills to help them during their future careers in the professional world.

AGcelerate Enrichment Program hosts etiquette dinner at Vita Nova

May 22, 2024 Written by Nya Wynn | Photos courtesy of of Vincenzo Ellis

As the spring semester draws to a close College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) students from all of the college’s 13 majors were invited to attend AGcelerate’s Etiquette Dinner at Vita Nova

The dinner, led by assistant professor in the department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, Vincenzo Ellis, and Lauren O’Brien, acting senior assistant dean and academic program manager, helps students gain etiquette skills to help them during their future careers in the professional world. The event was also helped put together by plant and soil sciences Ph.D. student, Irene Ikiriko, a graduate assistant to AGcelerate. 

“AGcelerate is our college’s student enrichment program that leads academic and social enrichment events,” Ellis said. “The idea behind this dinner is that we give students from CANR the experience of formal instruction about the basics of etiquette.”

Unless enrolled in a hospitality course, many students are never taught formal dining etiquette, but having these skills can help set UD students apart from others in the job market. 

“You don’t really ever get to learn proper etiquette other than maybe from your parents,” said Francesca Holl, a senior pre-veterinary medicine major. “Sometimes etiquette is kind of scary because if you do something wrong it’s very taboo, but the instructor was so friendly. He taught us about the proper etiquette surrounding utensils and plates and different types of glasses.” 

Students gather at a Vita Nova table.
Learning from Nick Waller, an instructor of hospitality business management and director of Vita Nova, these students received a full crash course on etiquette over a five-course meal.

“There's all these little things, that really aren’t as complicated as they seem, that you can do to kind of make yourself more professional, which was the overall takeaway,” O’Brien added. 

Their etiquette instructor for the night was Nick Waller, an instructor of hospitality business management and director of Vita Nova. Waller is classically trained in all things proper so students were able to get a full crash course on etiquette. 

“Nick Waller is from England, and he has served the royal family,” said Cassie Frank, junior plant science major. “So the fact that he's the one that taught us everything was really cool.” 

“The big takeaway for me is understanding that etiquette is not rules that are inherently arbitrary, but that there's a reason for them,” Ellis added. “And the reason is that we want to have a professional, social interaction where everybody's comfortable and everybody knows what's expected so we can do what we need to do.”

On top of the five-course meal and the lessons on which fork to use first and how to properly place your napkin, students were also given the opportunity to mingle and meet other members of the college. 

“I think it’s really nice to have college-wide events so that you meet people outside of your major,” Holl said. “I feel like I see a lot of familiar faces and a lot of people within my major day-to-day, but at the AGcelerate events you get to see people from all different majors and learn different perspectives.”

“Aside from learning the etiquette, which of course is beneficial, students were able to get to know peers within the college that they had not met before or hadn’t spoken to,” O’Brien said. “So I think the mixer element was a big part of the night, in addition to the professional development piece of it.” 

Although the delicious dinner at Vita Nova is one of AGcelerate’s more popular social events, the program hosts various other events throughout the year to help support CANR students. 

The program has drop-in tutoring geared toward some of the difficult prerequisite classes such as biology, math and chemistry, but they also offer help for the upper-level courses. In addition to support with academics, they have offered resume workshops and graduate school application workshops to help set students up for success even after their time at UD comes to a close. 

AGcelerate also just wrapped up their end of year pizza giveaway in the Townsend Hall Commons for any CANR student to take while they study up for finals, as well as passing out “finals week survival kits,” with snacks and all the things students may need to get through the final push of the semester.  

“CANR is really supportive,” Frank said. “The nice part about getting to know everybody is that you feel like everybody understands each other and that you can rely on people in the college for help.” 

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