Students Get Advice—and Great Meal—From Alumna

Though I can’t say whether the historical record will back me up on this, I have a strong feeling that Plato’s Academy was catered. Yes, it was a great meeting of the minds, and yes, such philosophical heavyweights no doubt transcended the need for material sustenance. But given the choice between an intelligent discussion and an intelligent discussion over olive-oil-poached tenderloins, it’s insulting to think the great philosopher did it any other way.

Lynn Utter was no less savvy than our Greek friend as she hosted the most recent installment of Food for Thought, the monthly series that features executive alumni meeting students for the equivalent of a very lopsided dinner date.

In a suitably imposing room in the AT&T Conference Center’s celebrated Carillon restaurant, surrounded by 12 eager members of the Texas Exes Student Chapter, the current president and COO of office furniture manufacturer Knoll held forth Wednesday on a range of life, career, and personal development topics.

From finding a work-life balance (“Find a partner. Someone you can make big decisions with”), to drinking (“I wish the drinking age were 18. You guys are adults”), to the meatier subject of interviews and business culture (“In an interview, focus on what you can offer the company, not what the job can offer you”), Utter held forth in a machine-gun clip for the entirety of a very extensive (and expensive) meal.

But though she barely paused for breath, the dinner was definitely a conversation rather than a lecture. Utter did a game job of answering honestly and directly every query lobbed at her – even when she was offering opinions those at the table might not like to hear.

“Frankly, I think they should raise tuition” was met with a silence only partially caused by rich-food-induced coma, though the table agreed that “students need to be realistic about the amount of debt they can take on.”

Perhaps the greatest point in the evening came when a student asked Utter, “Should we consider you a connection?”

Without the slightest hesitation, Utter said yes.

That single exchange proved the value of these kinds of events: they allow students to network, not through forced small talk in some cavernous events center, but through a direct, candid conversation that lays the foundation for a real relationship.

In one of her concluding remarks, Utter looked around the room at those assembled and made the following observation: “Something in you wants to go farther, which I can tell just from the fact that you made it here tonight. Listen to that voice—it’ll serve you well.”

As well as a white lobster bisque with just a touch of caviar?

Yes, undoubtedly yes.

Interested in hosting a dinner? Contact Taylor Nyberg at (512) 471-8077, or click here.

Top: A culinary creation of pork belly from the Carillon restaurant. Courtesy the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center. Below: Lynn Utter. Texas Exes file image.


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