Logo: University of Southern California

SWE "Charms" USC Students with Etiquette Workshop and Fashion Show

December 03, 2007 —
Is my drinking cup or my bread plate on my right? Can I wear flip-flops to work? How casual is business casual?
Viterbi professor Michael Crowley demonstrates some
bad fashion at the Charm School.
So read the slogans across the USC campus days before the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) first annual Charm School, a workshop dedicated to teaching students about dining etiquette and professional dress. The recent event was the first of its kind to be hosted by the organization.
“We thought of this event after we heard that another SWE collegiate section does a Mr. Engineer pageant at their school,” said Ann Jun, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering. “We wanted to do a big fall event and thought of doing a fashion show. The etiquette workshop evolved from there because we wanted the event to educate engineers to get ready for industry on top of being fun.”
Jun, who serves as SWE’s Vice President of Student Affairs, projected that an estimated two months of brainstorming and planning went into the event, which attracted over 70 undergraduate and graduate students to Tommy’s Place. The first part of the program consisted of a dining etiquette workshop, with a presentation by Esther Lee from the Career Placement and Planning Center. 
Viterbi Student Program Coordinator Tisha Armatys
models a 'business casual' outfit at the event.

After the presentation, a panel of industry representatives answered specific questions from the audience regarding proper dining behaviors and faux pas.
The second half of the event included a fashion show displaying the do's and don’t's of professional dress. Several students, faculty, and staff members participated in the show, bringing many laughs to the audience. The panel commented on each outfit, pointing out what worked and what didn’t work.
“It was such a great experience,” said BAE Systems Debra S. Roy, one of the industry representatives who served on the panel. “An event like this is not the venue for a speech or lecture, but demands sincere conversation from someone with both experience and the willingness to share successes and failures.”
Professors Najmedin Meshkati and Michael Crowley, from the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) and Civil Engineering Departments, respectively, modeled atypical “Casual Friday” and “Business Casual” dress during the fashion show.
Paul Ledesma, Associate Director for Undergraduate 
Admission, shows what not to wear to the workplace.
“I was happy to be invited to the charm school,” Meshkati commented. “I also learned a LOT from the great presentations by the panelists. They provided me with lots of food for thought that I wish I had heard that long before in my career.”

The SWE Student Affairs Committee, including senior Sarah Straus and sophomores Sapna Shah, Robin Hartman, and Tina Chou, all played an integral role in the planning of Charm School. Each SWE officer invested hours of time to advertise, setup the event, purchase supplies and organize models and outfits. In addition, several Viterbi and USC staff members offered suggestions.
“[Women in Engineering Director] Kate Baxter and [Career Services’] Candace House helped us to think of ideas to improve the event in terms of logistics, getting industry representatives at the event, keeping the workshop interactive, etc. the whole way through,” Jun said.
Crowley and professorNajmedin Meshkati, left, 
model less-than-ideal workplace outfits at the Society
of Women Engineers' first-ever Charm School.
Even with such a successful program, attendees recognize that there is still a lot to learn. “There was a lot more that could be said, but time ran out,” said Ted Mayeshiba, a lecturer for the ISE Department who served on the Industry Panel. Mayeshiba noted several points he wished he could have discussed, such as regional differences, cubicle etiquette, and “water cooler” conversation.

Jun recognized such improvements, and looks forward to planning a second etiquette workshop in the future: “Look out for a bigger and better Charm School next year!”