Minding your Ps and Qs: WVU grad helps teach the ABCs of proper etiquette

Sit up straight. Don’t slouch. Put your BlackBerry away and give your attention to the person speaking. All of these are good etiquette tips for anyone in the workplace and if you run into Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, she will tell you the same thing. Patricia is the founder and director of The Etiquette School of New York in Manhattan. In 2010, she was featured on CNN to discuss the importance of business etiquette in today’s job market and she has plenty of tips to help new graduates in the workplace.

Being the eldest of six, Patricia was no stranger to teaching her siblings how to act and be Fitzpatrick Patricia respectful. It came naturally to guide them in the same direction in which she was taught. And after graduating from West Virginia University with a degree in secondary education and language arts, she continued her path of education through teaching. But after a year into her teaching career, Patricia changed paths and entered the corporate world. She spent nearly 20 years working as an advertising and marketing executive.

Eventually, Patricia wanted to return to the educational setting – this time with adults as well as children. This led her to attend the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Ga., as well as the prestigious Washington School of Protocol in our nation’s capital where she learned all there is to know about etiquette. “I have a strong belief in credentials and The Washington School of Protocol gave me the tools I needed to pursue the career path I desired.”

Now Patricia works with people of all ages, helping them to enhance their manners and etiquette whether it is for everyday life or business related. “I truly enjoy meeting all of the different people. I’ve worked with so many and etiquette training gives me the excuse to learn new things in order to help others.” And there really is so much to learn. Whether it is which fork to use at the dinner table or how to shake a hand at a job interview, Patricia does it all.

These etiquette classes even made it to the big screen. In 2010, Patricia was featured in MTV’s Jackass 3D film to give etiquette critiques to cast members. “At first I was hesitant to do it,” she explained, “but I was only involved in the G-rated segments. It actually ended up being quite fun.” From the box office to the real office, running a business in the biggest city in the nation has to be intimidating, right? Not necessarily. “New York, to me, is a small city,” Patricia says, “Everyone just carves out their own little niche in an area. People come from around the world and it offers so many unique outlooks and personalities. It truly is the ‘center of the world.’”

Patricia admits not everything comes easy and being an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and dedication. “The most challenging part about it is that you have to stay excited about it every day. Whatever you are doing with your business, you have to be excited,” she explains. “You have to stay focused too.”

New York City offers everything that one could imagine. There’s Wall Street, Central Park, and who could forget the Theatre District? When asked what thing from Morgantown that Patricia would want in New York City, the answer was simple. “All of the friendly, smiling faces! That’s just natural so Morgantown,” she explains. “Everyone in New York is always in a hurry and on their phones.” This may be the most common etiquette no-no that Patricia sees. “It’s become a common thing in the office setting for people to be on their cellphones or BlackBerrys. People will see their boss on the phone in a meeting and figure that since they are doing it than they can too,” Patricia says. “And that’s wrong.”

Since her days in Morgantown, Patricia has come a long way. And her time at WVU left an impact on the direction where she was headed. “The years between 18 and 21 inherently take you from teen to adult. During my time at WVU, I established who I was as an adult and poised myself to make the transition from student to your female professional with a clear understanding of who I was, and that the world was open to me. It was a world of change then, as it is now, and I was able to face it with confidence as a result of my time at WVU.

This feature story was written by Gabe Gibellino, a professional writing major at WVU and a member of the Class of 2011.