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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith most school systems prepared to open later this month, students are enjoying their final few weeks of summer vacation. But for those who are about to enter their senior year in high school, thoughts of which college they will be attending a year from now are also sprinkled into their psyche.

Alexis Haakonsen, director of admissions at Southern, says the end of summer is a good time to start planning in earnest for the college search/admissions process. Without the pressure of daily classes, as well as sports and club activities, an effective action plan can more easily be put together.

As a guideline, Haakonsen divides the process into four components:

*Academic preparation. “This is, or at least should be, the number one priority for students,” she says. While the first three years of your high school transcript have been written, an impressive senior year can sometimes make the difference between getting into the college of your choice and having to settle for a school that was not among your first few. It may be a good idea to get a jump on the start of the school year by reviewing last year’s notes if you are taking an advanced-level class this year (such as Spanish 3 or Chemistry 2); doing some reading/practicing in advance, if you know which books and the course material you are going to see this year.

*Researching colleges. Find out important information about colleges that you are considering – everything from where they are located to majors and minors offered to scholarship availability to general admissions requirements. It is a good idea to prioritize the schools you are considering, if you haven’t already done so.

*Visiting colleges. “Students really need to get on the campuses they are seriously considering and see how they fit,” Haakonsen says. This process is much easier if you have narrowed your selections to a manageable number, especially if the schools you are considering are hundreds or thousands of miles away. Ideally, some college visits are done during the summer before your senior year, if not earlier. But if you haven’t visited some schools yet, it is a good idea to start planning to do so.

*Preparing the college application portfolio. In addition to standard paperwork and letters of recommendation, this includes the college essay. The essay can play a key role in determining your future school admissions, so be sure to give it your all. It may take multiple drafts before the essay exemplifies your best writing. But consider that an investment in your future. Don’t be afraid to let someone else – a guidance counselor, teacher, parent or even a friend — read your essay before submission. This doesn’t mean letting them write it for you, but rather providing feedback so that you can improve your own essay.

So, how do admissions offices ultimately decide whether you are accepted, placed on a waiting list, or are politely rejected? Haakonsen says each school proceeds in a distinctive manner, but that generally speaking, a “holistic approach” is used. “At Southern, we look at everything during an application review – high school grades, SAT/ACT test scores, essays, letters of recommendation and more,” she says. “The numbers don’t tell us the whole story – we want to know the whole person to help determine if that student will be successful at our particular institution.

“My main advice to students and parents as they are starting the college search process is to have fun! This is an exciting time in their lives and they should enjoy it,” Haakonsen adds. “There are so many great colleges and universities out there, students have many terrific opportunities to explore.”

She recommends the following link as being helpful to students entering their senior year, as well as for their parents:
http://www.collegebound.net/article/v/18956/college-preparationsenior-year-timeline/

And another link for a broader, multi-year approach in selecting a college:
http://www.petersons.com/college-search/planning-list-students-parents.aspx

In keeping with the theme from our last blog post about popular misconceptions associated with the birth of our nation, a new series offered by the Military Channel is must watch TV for U.S. history buffs.

The series, “America: Facts vs. Fiction,” was launched last week and is scheduled to run on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. The series explores commonly held beliefs about American history and is billed as a series to debunk fiction and to set the record straight on half-truths. A 30-segment last week pertained to the famous ride of Paul Revere to warn the colonists of an imminent threat by the British army.blogreverephoto

Revere, of course, set out on horseback from Boston and intended to warn our militia stationed in Lexington and Concord about the impending British march toward those locations. But the show pointed out some interesting facts that are bound to surprise many people. Some of them include:

  • William Dawes, a 30-year-old tanner and militiaman, had the same mission as Revere, although he took a different route to Lexington.
  • Both Revere and Dawes — as well as Samuel Prescott, a doctor and a patriot — then sought to go to Concord. But Revere was captured along the way. Dawes never made it either. Historians believe he had been bucked off of his horse. But Samuel Prescott was the person who actually made it to Concord.
  • Yet, the famous poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and first published in 1860, incorrectly states that Revere reached Concord and implies he was the only rider.
  • While Revere did warn colonial town and military leaders en route to Lexington that the British regulars were on the move, historians dispute the notion that he shouted “The British are coming! The British are coming!” Most colonists at the time identified themselves as British and were still under the British crown. “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!” is a more plausible refrain, but we really don’t know for sure.

Marie Basile McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern, says the show was essentially correct in its claims. She also said that she is more interested in the “how and why” that inaccurate portrayals of the past are handed down in society, rather than the actual misconceptions themselves.

“As an example, students all over the country had to memorize the ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ poem – an exercise that lasted for decades!” she says. “You can still find people who had to memorize this poem in school.

So, why is it that Paul Revere is so emphasized in American history?

McDaniel notes that Revere was a patriot, and worked as a silversmith and engraver. He was very active in 1760s and 1770s political organizations, according to McDaniel.

“Maybe Longfellow’s poem, while not accurate, was reflecting a deeper truth about Revere’s place in pre-Revolutionary Boston.”

As an aside, McDaniel notes that many people might not realize the image on Samuel Adams beer is actually that of Paul Revere. “Although he was a brewer, Samuel Adams was not very good looking,” she says.

In fact, the homeliness of Adams is one of two prevailing theories as to why Revere’s image is on the beer bottles, rather than that of Sam Adams himself. The second is that the beer was originally going to be called “Revere Beer,” but that it did not fare well in poll testing. Yet, it was too late to change the image without incurring an additional cost.

Happy Birthday, America!

Our nation’s founding is a day to celebrate – often with fireworks, picnics and other early- summer fun. Most of us know the significance of Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence, of course. But there are plenty of interesting facts surrounding these historical milestones that would surprise many of us who are not experts in U.S. history.

blogindependencedayphotoWe wanted to share a few of these lesser-known facts with you. And thanks to background provided by Marie Basile McDaniel, assistant professor of history at Southern and our resident expert on colonial America, we’re able to do so.

First, contrary to popular belief, the United States declared itself an independent nation on July 2, 1776, not July 4, 1776.
The Second Continental Congress approved a resolution to do so on July 2. In fact, John Adams thought July 2 would be the date that would be celebrated as Independence Day. Nevertheless, you probably wouldn’t be successful in explaining to your boss that you should have July 2 off to celebrate Independence Day. Just a wild guess.

So, why do we celebrate the Fourth of July, rather than the Second of July?
The Declaration of Independence document itself was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4.

Okay. That means the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, right?
Wrong. Most historians believe that most of the 56 congressional delegates who signed the document did so on Aug. 2, 1776. And the last individuals to sign waited until at least November 1776 (some say it was longer) to put their John Hancock on the document. (Sorry for the pun.) By the way, Hancock really was the first to sign it.

When was the Declaration of Independence written?

Thomas Jefferson, with the help of Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, wrote most of it in June 1776, soon after being appointed to a committee by Congress in that same month. The appointment followed a motion made by Richard Henry Lee, who represented Virginia in Congress, to declare the colonies independent. His motion was eventually voted on and approved July 2.

Were there revisions to the document?
Yes. In fact, Jefferson originally used the word “subjects,” rather than “citizens,” in the Declaration. This might well have been out of habit as the colonists had been considered “British subjects” since the pilgrims landed in the New World. But Jefferson later corrected the term. Congress made some revisions, as well.

Was there widespread support among the populace for the Declaration of Independence at the time it was approved?
Yes. While Americans were divided on whether or not to break away from England, there was considerable support at the grassroots level among those who wanted to be independent. In fact, many colonists were clamoring to issue a declaration even before 1776, but the elites in the Second Continental Congress kept delaying such a move because of potential military and logistical concerns.

And so it goes…Now you have some fodder to stump your Fourth of July party guests with a little Independence Day trivia. Does anyone have any other factoids about America’s birth that might surprise folks?

Happy 4th!

It wasn’t so long ago when high school and college graduates could be reasonably confident they would land a job not too long after the echoes of “Pomp and Circumstance” had faded. In fact, not getting some type of professional job a year after obtaining that diploma was the exception, rather than the rule.

blogphotojobs

In today’s stagnant economy – especially with unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds above 24 percent – securing a real job shortly after commencement is anything but assured.

So, what can someone do to increase their chances of employment in the near term?

Pat Whelan, associate director of career services at Southern, and Gerri Prince, the university’s coordinator of employer recruitment programs, offer some advice:

• Network! Hey, it might sound like a cliché, but this is a valuable piece of advice from Gerri and Pat. Let’s face it, the hunt for a job is somewhat of a numbers game. The people you are in contact with have contacts, who, in turn, have contacts, etc.

• Be sure to develop a refined, tailored version of your resume for each position to which you apply. A resume that is too generic can lead employers to think you lack motivation because you didn’t take the time to make it distinctive.

• Practice your interview skills. You can even request an “informational interview” from someone employed in an occupation in which you are trying to land a job. In those situations, it’s probably best to request no more than 20-30 minutes of their time since they might be very busy. And asking for a long period of time will make it less likely they’ll accept your request.

• Practice your pitch. No, not your fastball or curveball, but your commercial pitch. Be ready to talk about who you are and what you have to offer, even in unexpected settings, such as in the grocery store or at a social event. Politicians do this all the time and call it their “stump speech.”

• Professional dress for an interview is generally assumed by the employer. This should be a given, but you would be amazed at how many people think nothing of wearing jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers and even rather immodest clothing. The interviewer might mentally disqualify you from contention before you even utter a word if are attired in less than professional wear. Consider using graduation gift money toward the purchase of a career wardrobe.

• Join professional organizations in your field and try to build relationships with people. Individuals belonging to these groups often are well connected, and therefore it can help to meet them. If an opening occurs in their office and they know you, you might have an edge.

• Don’t under play your “soft skills” to potential employers, such as motivation, integrity, adaptability, organization, self-confidence and communication skills. These can be difficult to quantify or measure, but employers like team players, self-starters and those with a good work ethic.

• Remember to thank those individuals you encounter during your career search. Handwritten thank you notes, especially, are much appreciated. Even if you did not get a particular job after an interview, a thank you note leaves a good impression. And you never know if another job opening at the same organization is around the corner.

• Keep in mind that finding a job is a full-time job in itself, or at least it should be. Dedicate yourself to the search. The hard work you do now may not pay off immediately in terms of a paycheck, but it will increase your chances for finding a job you want.

Jan Brady has been a poster child for the “middle child” stereotype since the “Brady Bunch” became ingrained in the American culture in the early 1970s. You might recall that Jan sometimes felt overlooked as she struggled to find her own niche and identity – caught between her ever-popular older sister, Marcia, and her younger sister, Cindy.

And while middle children are unfairly stereotyped as going through life with an insatiable craving for attention because of a perceived lack of it growing up, no birth order has been as stigmatized and maligned as much as “only children.”

blogonlychild

The “lonely onlies” may not have a symbolic character to perpetuate their own stereotype – that of spoiled children who become self-centered adults — but one clearly isn’t needed. Say that someone is an only child and many people will instantly associate them with those undesirable traits, even if they don’t say it. And intuitively, it doesn’t sound unreasonable. If you’ve never had to share your toys or clothes, compete for parental attention or negotiate with siblings, it doesn’t sound like such a huge leap.

But Phyllis Gordon, director of Southern’s Family Therapy Clinic, says that an overwhelming amount of research on only children does not support the stereotype. She says the stigma originates from G. Stanley Hall, an American researcher and pioneer of child psychology. After collecting data from various sources in a way that has little resemblance to today’s scientific research methods, Hall actually went so far as to say just before the turn of the 20th century that “being an only child is a disease in itself.”

Whoa! Maybe that kind of comment could fly in the late 1800s, when large families were the norm and only children were rather uncommon. But can you imagine the fallout today if a researcher were to make that “analogy” about only children, or anyone’s children?

Just in the last 50 years, the percentage of kids under the age of 18 who fall into the category of being an only child has doubled – from 10 percent to 20 percent. So, in a typical classroom of 25 students, 5 of those students are only children, on average. Yet, the popular notion continues that they tend to be spoiled.

“Virtually all subsequent research on onlies has debunked the anecdotal and meaningless findings of Mr. Hall,” Gordon says. “But many parents continue to fear that being an only child will mean a lifetime of being unhappy, selfish, spoiled, lonely and maladjusted.”

Nevertheless, Gordon says there are some distinctive characteristics among only children of which parents should be aware. After all, birth order does play a role in the development of a child’s personality. Therefore, she offers a few suggestions to parents about raising only children, keeping in mind these are based on generalities and that each child is unique.

First, don’t worry! An only child is not from another planet. And studies have shown that only children tend to feel more confident in school; score better in achievement, motivation and personal adjustment; and complete an addition year of education, on average, than their peers. And despite not having to grow up scrapping with siblings – and perhaps because of that — they tend to be more calm and patient with others. They learned early in life that their turn will come because it generally did in their more orderly childhoods.

Be extra careful about pressuring them to succeed. Only children (and first borns) tend to be self-driven and conscientious. They often apply plenty of self-imposed pressure. When they do, outside pressure can be like pouring gasoline on a fire! It could create psychological and emotional problems. Again, each child is unique and some do need a nudge, or several nudges. But be aware of this tendency among only (and first-born) children.

While only children are quite capable of making friends, it is important to give them those opportunities. Children learn some of their social skills from their siblings. So, it’s probably even more important for onlies to have opportunities to interact with other kids, whether they are play dates, after school activities or youth clubs and sports.

And just in case you needed any more assurance, just look at some of the many famous only children. They include:

• Franklin Delano Roosevelt
• Joe Montana
• Elvis Presley
• Nancy Reagan
• Ted Koppel
• Walter Cronkite
• Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
• Sammy Davis Jr.
• Laura Bush
• Maria Sharapova

The list goes on and on.

While studies have shown that hyper-stimulation – caused by stress, nervousness and pressure – can negatively affect an athlete’s performance, the same thing can happen to students while studying or taking an exam.

Whether you’re preparing for your college mid-terms, high school finals or SATs, stress can sometimes cause even the best students to “choke” under pressure. Some top-notch students excel in their Advanced Placement classes, but paradoxically end up with a perplexingly sub-par score on the SATs. Trying to find “the zone” between overstimulation and lack of enthusiasm is the key. And on major exams, especially for dedicated students, the former tends to be more of a problem.

blogphotodestressSo, what kinds of stress-busting techniques can help you ace that final exam? Denise Zack, a counselor in Southern’s University Counseling Office, says there are some general tips that can help most individuals, and also some specific stress reduction suggestions based on how stress affects you.

“Certainly you want to try to stay on a regular and healthy schedule as far as eating, sleeping and studying is concerned,” she says.

But Zack also offers other general tips on de-stressing, such as:

*Don’t forget to breathe. It sounds silly, but you would be amazed at how many people hold their breath for extended periods of time. That prevents optimal amounts of oxygen from getting to the brain and the body. Try deep breathing exercises to help relax further.

*Pet therapy. Studies have shown that just petting your dog or cat can lower your blood pressure, reduce your heart rate and elevate your mood. There is a reason why therapy dogs can be found in hospitals and nursing homes. But dogs don’t discriminate – they will help people of all ages.

*Quiet your mind. No, that doesn’t mean yelling “shut up” to your brain. (That move might create a whole new set of stressors in your life, or indicate a much deeper problem.) Instead, try to focus on the present. Are you comfortable? Is there any imminent danger? The answer is usually no.

Zack also notes that some techniques are more effective at dealing with stress that affects you physically or behaviorally, while other methods are better at helping people cope with the emotional or cognitive. Someone affected physically might be getting stiff necks or increased fatigue, while those affected emotionally might find themselves crying or getting agitated more quickly than normal.

Zack suggests the following to deal with the physical aspects of stress:

*Exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming, or almost anything that gets your blood pumping can be helpful.

*Yoga. Not all of us are capable of bending ourselves into a pretzel, but any sort of stretching — gentle stretches for at least 20-30 seconds at a clip — can reduce physical signs of stress, as well.

*Take a warm shower. It sounds simple, but it can help increase blood flow to the part of the body that may be bothering you. That reduces pain and stress.

She suggests the following to deal with stress that affects you psychologically:

*Talk it out. Chatting with a trusted friend or family member can help lower cognitive stress levels.

*Write it out. In a similar way, writing in a journal can be cathartic and provide stress relief.

*Watch a movie in a warm blanket with some hot chocolate. It may sound like one of those after school TV movies, but it can work effectively. Humor, comfort foods and a relaxed atmosphere make a wonderful trifecta.

(For a look at an example of pet therapy, check out the video below of a de-stress program offered at Southern a few days before the start of final exams. Students were able to interact with dogs of various sizes and breeds.)

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/66676054 w=375&h=661]

Mika Brzezinski’s new book, “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and my Own” has reopened the periodic national conversation about eating disorders.

Mika, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a former Connecticut broadcast journalist, chronicles her ongoing bout with food addiction and eating disorders. In the book, Diane Smith, a former Connecticut broadcast journalist who is now a producer at the Connecticut Network (CT-N), also talks about her fight against overeating. The two recently discussed the book and their experiences on “Morning Joe.”

When two individuals with successful careers in the media can talk candidly about their personal but painful experiences, the hope is that those battling similar demons will feel a little less isolated, and perhaps will find a path to a healthier lifestyle.

Millions of Americans are estimated to have an eating disorder. Among the disorders are anorexia nervosa (losing weight to the point where it is unhealthy), bulimia nervosa (cycles of binge eating and purging, typically through forced vomiting) and binge eating disorder (pattern of eating in excessive amounts in a short period of time).

blogphotoeatingdisorderWhile eating disorders affect people across society’s demographic spectrum, females in their middle school, high school and college years are typically the most vulnerable, according to Patricia DeBarbieri, a professor of marriage and family therapy at Southern.

“Prevention is the big focus in eating disorder work right now,” DeBarbieri says. “Like the ‘great smoke out,’ it is the best protection.”

DeBarbieri says the development of a healthy sense of self – which includes solid doses of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect — is very important in that prevention effort. She notes that a healthy sense of self contributes significantly to a person’s social and emotional development. In turn, social and emotional development builds resiliency, which is kind of a psychological/emotional vaccine against developing eating disorders. Just like flu vaccines, it’s not a guarantee you won’t come down with an eating disorder, but you reduce your chances significantly. And if you do develop a disorder, it is likely to be less virulent.
Of note, she is not talking about the development of an inflated self-esteem or narcissism that many experts see as a growing phenomenon in society today.

DeBarbieri offers the following outlook for girls and young women to follow to build a healthy self-esteem and resiliency:

I am unique. Nobody else on the planet is quite like you, whether it is the way you think, act or proceed in life. It is important to help young people identify their uniqueness and celebrate their special qualities. This does not mean that everything you do is wonderful, nor are you always right, but nobody does it quite like you.

I am connected. A strong support network is important, especially in the formative years. This can be to your family, your school, your hometown or your place of worship. It can also be in a larger context, such as connection to your state or country.

I am comfortable in my body. The “beautiful people” tend to be the stars of TV, movies, advertisements and other forms of media. There is certainly nothing wrong with being beautiful, but the problem is that the images shown tend to be the exceptions, rather than the rule, within the population. Over time, that can negatively influence the way people view their own bodies since the large majority of the public can’t match up. It may be counterintuitive, but rather then encouraging people to eat healthier and exercise more, it can have the opposite effect as despair sets in at not being able to look like them.

I am lovable. Unconditional love is said to be the purest form of love on earth. There are no strings attached. That feeling of being accepted and loved is crucial to a healthy self-esteem.

I am capable. Self-confidence is an important quality to have when dealing with life’s twists and turns. That confidence – genuine self-confidence as opposed to false bravado – generally is developed through taking on age-appropriate responsibilities. (As we discussed in an earlier post, helicopter parenting can create problems, notably in the area of self-confidence.)

I assert my power to make choices. An important factor in developing a healthy self-esteem is being able to assert yourself in making your own choices. Allowing other people to consistently make your decisions can chip away at your self-esteem.

I have role models. Role models can fall into the category of people we know personally, as well as those who we don’t but admire from afar. They can also be fictional. But we have to be careful to choose positive role models whose values are similar.

Those of you who watched David Ferrer come agonizingly close to pulling off an upset against Andy Murray in the recent Sony Open couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind in those last few games of the tennis match.

Ferrer, arguably the 5th best player in the world, is a model of consistency on the tennis court. His speed, accuracy and heart make him a force to be reckoned with against any opponent – his inability to beat the Big Four (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray) in title matches notwithstanding.

In the finals of the Sony Open, Ferrer crushed a lackluster Murray in the 1st set, 6-2. Murray found his stride in time to win the 2nd set, 6-4. Ferrer took a 6-5 lead in the 3rd set and had a golden opportunity to win it all. In fact, he had a break and match point, only to falter. Finally, in the tiebreaker, Murray decisively put him away.

blogchokingphoto3Many would call it a case of a classic “choke.” It was almost as if the reality suddenly sank in of being on the doorstep of beating one of the Big Four. We’ll never know, of course, what he really was thinking and feeling at those moments. But a subconscious fear of success could have been at work.

We’ve seen similar scenarios play out in so many close games and contests. One athlete or team thrives under pressure, while another wilts. Many of you might remember the New York Yankees leading the Boston Red Sox 3-0 in the 2004 AL Championship Series. Given that no Major League Baseball team has ever fallen to an opponent after leading 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, the Yankees were all but crowned as the AL champion. But Boston rallied in the final four games to win the series.

When a pattern of faltering in pressure situations occurs, the person or team develops a reputation of being a “choker.” The Buffalo Bills are a classic case, losing in four straight Super Bowl appearances (1991 to 1994). The most agonizing of those defeats came in 1991, when kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds to save the Giants’ tenuous 20-19 lead.

So, what exactly happens physically and psychologically when someone chokes?
Sharon Misasi and David Kemler, both professors of exercise science at Southern, say it has to do with psychological pressure (stress) causing feelings of insecurity, muscle tension or autonomic arousal to occur. “When a performer perceives these affects occurring, it often leads to debilitating cognitive and/or motor outcomes,” they say.

“The performer’s scope of thinking diminishes due to the brain’s defenses that push the body into fight, flight and/or play dead mode. Worry and pressure cause the performer to forget or not access the motor programs that he or she has to solve the problem.”
Interestingly, it’s not just fear of failure that can lead to choking. Fear of success is a frequent culprit, as well.

“A performer may be worried (anxiety) about what will happen if they succeed at this level. They may be thinking, ‘What if I am successful? What will be expected of me the next time? Why do I deserve to be successful?’ This form of thinking and feeling can lead to our attention being directed to non-relevant cues, such as noises in the crowd, waving of the pompoms and trash talking. In the case of tennis, the individual performer focuses on the opposing player and not the tennis ball, or in football, the kicker focuses on the linemen or the football and not the uprights.”

What can be done to overcome a choking tendency?

Misasi and Kemler offer a few suggestions:

Practice game-like situations to prepare for the increased stress level that accompanies game day. These types of drills also help increase one’s self-confidence, which is an important step toward overcoming choking.
Keep expectations realistic and put the event in perspective. While predicting knockouts and the rounds that they would occur might have worked for Muhammad Ali, it could wreak havoc with the psychology of someone prone to choking.
In the days before the event, visualize yourself performing well. Visualization has proven to be effective psychological technique for many athletes.
Work with a sports psychologist. Coaches and athletes have varying degrees of knowledge and awareness of the phenomenon of choking. But a good sports psychologist is trained in the subject and can help an athlete overcome this obstacle.

Does anyone have any other tips to prevent choking?

It’s the stuff from which comedy skits are made.

You’re at a business dinner and you order something that has the potential to be especially messy. Nevertheless, you say to yourself, “What are the odds that I would actually be klutzy enough to spill the food?”

But sure enough, you end up being another victim of Murphy’s Law – the sauce spills on your dress or you dip your tie into the soup. Or even worse, you mishandle a dish or glass and the contents are suddenly all over your potential new boss, client, or someone else you are trying to impress.

blogbusinessetiquettephotoYou apologize profusely. And while the other person may be gracious (best-case scenario), the fizz for the business dinner suddenly is gone. No matter what you say or do for the rest of the evening, you know that the spilled food will be what is remembered most clearly.

That’s not to say that you can’t turn things around and create a generally favorable impression. But it sure is going to be much harder.

So, what can you do to minimize the chances of this kind of thing from happening?

Ellen Durnin, dean of the School of Business at Southern, says following proper etiquette can act as somewhat of an insurance policy toward those types of disasters. That’s not to say they still can’t happen, but it’s smart to play the odds in these settings.

“You want to create a positive impression during a business meal – whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Durnin says. “While eating is certainly part of a business meal, your primary objective is usually business-related. It is better to leave the encounter with a half empty stomach than create a half-baked impression.”

She recommends eating before the meeting so that your focus can be on the business at hand.

“If you suddenly feel famished during the business meal, remember that you can always eat until your heart’s content after the meeting, either at home or at another restaurant, Durnin says.

The dean points to several suggestions offered by many business and etiquette experts to make a good impression. They include:

• Arrive on time.
• Be prepared for the meeting or discussion.
• Demonstrate good table manners.
• If you did the inviting, be sure to offer to pay the bill.
• Don’t get distracted by your meal.
• Remember B-M-W for identifying your place setting: from left to right – bread, meal, water. (This avoids the inevitable, “is that my bread plate or yours?”)
• Avoid ordering difficult-to-eat, messy or sticky foods.
• Select a meal from the menu that is in the middle price range of options.

So, what do you do if despite your best efforts, food or drink gets splashed the way of your dinner partner?

“Your response should be quick and sincere,” Durnin says. “Do NOT attempt to wipe the offending substance from their clothes. Instead, say, ‘I apologize. Please send your dry cleaning bill to me.’”

Durnin suggests moving on with the conversation at the table. “The other person does not want to focus on their stained clothing for the rest of the meeting, but will appreciate you returning to the conversation at hand.”

She also suggests following up with a message to their office the next business day to request the bill. This shows that the offer from the previous day was not an empty gesture.

Bon appetit!

With the extended winter weather this year, it’s hard to believe that the 2013 Major League Baseball season is upon us. Opening Day is scheduled for Sunday, but more important to Connecticut fans, the Red Sox and Yankees square off on Monday – the first of a three-game series.

When you think Yankees vs. Red Sox, what do you think of? New York vs. Boston. The Big Apple vs. Beantown. Manhattan Clam Chowder vs. New England Clam Chowder. Political Science vs. History.

Say what? You don’t get that last comparison?

You see, at Southern, the chairmen of two academic departments – political science and history – are avid baseball fans. Both are distinguished academicians in their respective fields, and when they are not teaching, researching, writing and administrating, they can often be seen following their favorite team. The two have been friends and colleagues for years. Art Paulson, who leads the Political Science Department, is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan. Troy Paddock, who is in charge of the History Department, has been a Red Sox fan since he was 10 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInterestingly, both agree that it will be challenging for their respective teams to win the American League East this year. Both agree that it will be a very competitive fight for the division title and that Tampa Bay looms as the team to beat.

But that doesn’t stop either from talking about why they think their team will finish higher in the standings than their arch rival. Each has given their 5 top reasons why that will be the case.

Here they are:

Troy Paddock’s 5 Reasons why the Red Sox Will Beat the Yankees in 2013:

  1. Bobby Valentine is not the manager of the Red Sox. He cost the Red Sox at least 5 or 6 games last year by leaving pitchers in too long. John Farrell knows this team from his time as a pitching coach and the players like him. Enjoying coming into work matters, even when you are playing a game.
  2. Injuries. The Red Sox had a tremendous number of injuries last year. Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Will Middlebooks, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and David Ortiz all spent significant time on the DL (as did others). If the starting lineup remains relatively healthy, they should be in better shape than last year.
  3. The pitching – both starting and relief — looks to be better. Buchholz and John Lackey have both looked healthy in spring training; Lester looks to be returning to the form that made him one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball a couple of years ago.
  4. This Red Sox team is deeper than past teams. There are several players who can make the trip up from Pawtucket to help this team. Jackie Bradley Jr. has caught everyone’s eye, but Ryan Lavarnway, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Brock Holt have shown they step in as needed, too.
  5. The Yankees look weak. The decision to become fiscally responsible seems to have been ill-timed. With Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all starting on the DL and CC Sabathia starting to show some signs of wearing down, the Yankees look like they might be in trouble. That’s too bad. Mariano Rivera deserves better in his final season.

Art Paulson’s 5 Reasons why the Yankees Will Beat the Red Sox in 2013:

  1. The Yankees have become the more experienced team. They have Jeter, Granderson, Sabathia, A-Rod, Robinson Cano, Teixeira, Pettitte and Youkilis. The Red Sox have good young talent, but it won’t collectively be as ready as it needs to be.
  2. New York has the better starting pitching. Not by much, but better. Sabathia is stronger than any of the Boston pitchers and Hiroki Kuroda is a pretty solid #2. He may also be better than any Bosox pitcher.
  3. The Yankees have Mariano Rivera and the Red Sox don’t. If Rivera can return to form after last year’s injury, he gives the Yankees a far stronger bullpen than the Red Sox. If for some reason he can’t – and I think he will – then the bullpen will be a close call.
  4. Stronger position-by-position.  If the Yanks can recover from their injuries, we have to give them the edge. Jeter is Jeter, and Cano is the best athlete on either team. Ellsbury is pretty good, but he’s the best the Red Sox have.
  5. The Yankees are the Yankees. The Red Sox are the Red Sox. Enough said.

Play ball!

Check out additional analysis from Art Paulson and Troy Paddock on the 2013 baseball season.