Jesse Aspuria

Each year, Washington State University students are offered seats at the popular Etiquette Dinner to learn best practices for making a good impression when interviewing for jobs and internships. But this year’s event on April 22 has a few new items on the plate, said Tyler Barstow, career and employer relations liaison for the hosting Academic Success and Career Center (ASCC).

“In a typical year, students in their best business clothing join hosts at white-linen-draped tables in the Compton Union Building (CUB) for an evening of fine dining plus tips from a guest expert on everything from which-fork-to-use-when to what-to-wear-to-an-interview. This year, when WSU classes are primarily online and everyone is distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to forge ahead and offer a familiar—but unique—student experience, and registration is open through April 16.”

Three-course meals-to-go in Pullman

“Pullman students registered for the dinner by the deadline can still enjoy great food at the April 22 event, but instead of dining in person, they will pick up pre-packaged, three-course meals from the CUB that they can heat and eat during the 5:00-6:30 p.m. program. Availability of the meals is on a first-come, first-served basis, but everyone attending will get great information they can use,” Barstow said.

The meals are possible thanks to a grant from the CougParents Program.

The Pullman menu includes such items as Arcadian mixed greens with poached pears and Cougar cheese, sous vide pot roast with charred herb carrots and caramelized cipollini or no-meat-loaf with rosemary butter potatoes and mushroom demi, and coconut shortcake with ginger-infused peaches and citrus Chantilly cream.

Etiquette Dinner is university wide

Barstow said that another difference this year is that—also for the first time—the Etiquette Dinner will be open to students across the university. Students at WSU campuses in Spokane, Everett, Vancouver, and the Tri-Cities, as well as Global Campus students, are invited to the program.

“One of the advantages to hosting an event online is that we can extend the program to students at a distance from Pullman, and we are excited to  be able to use technology to welcome them to the event,” said Barstow. “Some campuses are considering providing meals to their students, but plans are still coming together campus-by-campus.”

Appreciated opportunity

“Partnering with Pullman and across campuses for this event has helped increase programming bandwidth in a year that has been challenging for all of us with the pandemic,” said Kristine Cody, assistant director of career services at WSU Tri-Cities. “We’re grateful for this virtual and customizable opportunity to reach our students on an increasingly important topic – professionalism in a remote or hybrid setting.

“Any opportunity we have to facilitate students engaging with employers and alumni is a win for us. When students can learn from experts in the field, and see concepts come to life, it increases their confidence and ability to see themselves reaching their career goals.”

“It’s a great function for students, one where they will learn plenty and be helped to become a confident participant in somewhat-formal environments,” said Jacqueline Schneider, access and career services manager at WSU Health Sciences Spokane.

Schneider said, “I know the students will enjoy is the program about employment. I can talk to them but it’s more believable to have an employer talk to them directly. It resonates more.”

Guest speaker alumnus Jesse Aspuria

The featured guest speaker for the Etiquette Dinner is Marriott International Senior Account Executive for Global Accounts Jesse Aspuria (’04 Hospitality Business Management).

“I’ve often returned to WSU to recruit at ASCC’s Career Expos, but this time the purpose is quite different—I’m very honored to be speaking remotely to hundreds of future working professionals about how to get started on their career, what it takes to succeed, and what interviews are really like—all with an eye on nuances brought about by the pandemic,” said Aspuria.

Aspuria said he’ll draw a lot of material from his own experiences. As an undergraduate, he spent a year leading the Associated Students of WSU as student body president where he interfaced regularly with legislators, university and state officials, and students, and championed initiatives covering such topics as diversity awareness, student concerns, and student fees.

He was president of his Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity, worked as a then Call-a-Coug student fundraiser, studied abroad in Italy, and served in two hospitality internships. He has invested his entire 16-year professional career since graduation into Marriott International, and lives in Seattle with his wife Rachel and daughter Ruby.

“I plan to approach my message from two sides—that of being an employer as well as an employee,” said Aspuria. “Of course, I’ll touch on how to function in a virtual interview, which I think is going to be the new normal, pandemic or not.

“Actually, I think my entire program can be summarized with two words: be prepared.  For everything.”

Small-group, guided career discussions

Barstow said that in addition to Aspuria’ s presentation, the dinner hour-and-a-half will allow attendees to engage in discussions with career coaches and staff in Zoom breakout rooms, said Barstow.

He said that students from all campuses may sign up on the Handshake student job program and register online to attend the etiquette dinner.

ASCC is a program in the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.