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Students Master Social Skills In Fifth Annual Charm School

David Tarin--The Tech
The Chorallaries a capella group perform at the Charm School graduation ceremony last Thursday.

By Eric Sit

Conventional wisdom says that you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.

Not so - you shouldn't pick your own nose, either - according to the fifth annual Charm School, held over the last week of the Independent Activities Period in Lobbies 7 and 10, which debunked this and a host of other common faux pas regarding proper etiquette and style.

Four hours of classes and seminars in the afternoon concluded with an evening commencement ceremony and a presentation of diplomas.

Subjects taught included Nerd Love (Asking for a Date), Clothing Statements, Ballroom Dance, Buttering Up Big Shots, Small Talk, Impressive Interviewing, and Body Language.

Studying a subject might have entailed asking a few relevant questions on the subject or participating in a short discussion.

Over 80 faculty, students, and administrators volunteered to teach the seminars.

More ambitious students could earn "charm credits" toward a formal Charm School degree. A bachelor's degree was awarded for completing six subjects, a master's for eight, and a doctorate for 12.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Alberta G. Lipson, Senior Office Assistant of UAA Rosanne J. Swire, and Stacey J. Young '96 were in charge of organizing the event.

Students learn do's and don'ts

Lori Breslow, a senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management, and Rishi Shrivastava '97 listed all the "do's" and "don'ts" in their class, Impressive Interviewing. "Do your homework before the interview," Breslow said.

"Don't relive your glory days in high school," Shrivastava added.

Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt taught the class Exemplary Locomotion. "MIT people tend to make walking a utilitarian act with an emphasis on efficiency," he said. He calls this style the "Institute scuttle," where individuals keep their heads down, make no eye contact, and only make motions from their knees down.

Merritt also ran the Charm School Basement, which touched on "bathroom etiquette, bodily functions, and other unmentionables."

Merritt founded Charm School because he was tired of hearing the generalization that MITpeople could not function socially.

"Travis Merritt is the best part of Charm School. He is Charm School," Young said.

Vest presides at Œcommencement'

The degrees were awarded by none other than President Charles M. Vest at Charm School commencement. The ceremony, which took place in Lobby 10, featured appearances by the Chorallaries and MITmascot Tim Beaver.

"I did take several classes. The one I enjoyed the most was Schmoozing," which was taught by Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Daniel E. Hastings '80, Vest said.

"You were pretty darn wonderful before Charm School, and now you're simply unstoppable," Vest said to the Œgraduates.'

"What I like best about Charm School is that I get to follow the beaver to the stage," Vest said. He also said he was pleased with the way students and faculty worked together to organize Charm School and how they were enjoying themselves.

Vest said that the class that he really would have liked to take was How to Overcome Shyness. "It was very hard for me to do when Ifirst got into these kinds of positions where I had to meet a lot of people I didn't know," he said.

Organizers needed for next year

"Charm School went great - better than expected," Young said. As the "CEOof Charm School," she said she most enjoyed meeting faculty, staff, and students from all different parts of MIT.

However, five or six people will be needed to fill next year's Charm School student board, Young said.

Most of the organizers for this year's event have been volunteering to organize Charm School for the last five years, Young said. "Charm School may not happen next year unless we can organize this student board," she said.

The volunteers must be willing to work 10 hours per week during the fall and most of IAP, she said. The current group will begin its search for volunteers in February.