How Alcorn State University Welcomed its First Woman President: A Feast Fit For A Queen
Posted By: D'Juan Hopewell on July 07, 2021 |
Dr. Felecia M. Nave is one of the most accomplished Black women in the world. She holds a Ph.D. in engineering, has earned numerous higher education accolades, is a wife and a mother. Dr. Nave is also something that no one in the history of the world has ever been—a woman who serves as president of Alcorn State University.
Dr. Nave’s rise to the top leadership position at Alcorn State University is not only historic but also sweetened by the fact that she is an alumna of the school. To properly welcome Dr. Nave back to her alma mater, and her formal investiture as president, required a celebration fit for a queen. But there was just one problem...the COVID-19 pandemic. With zero catering staff on campus, something had to be done—and fast!
Dr. Nave is the 20th president of Alcorn State University, the first female to hold the position, and the first to be greeted by a worldwide pandemic. Sodexo, the firm that manages Alcorn’s dining services, was tasked with planning and coordinating of food and catering services for the inauguration of Dr. Nave. However, due to the pandemic, Sodexo literally had no catering staff on campus yet was still expected to support six events over three days to honor Dr. Nave’s investiture. The Sodexo staff at Alcorn State University jumped into action and reached out to regional partners for support. Answering the call were 15 Sodexo chefs from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.
“This was the biggest army of Sodexo chefs I’d ever seen,” says District Manager Brent Davidson. “They came together to make sure Dr. Nave was appropriately honored. And without a clear roadmap on how to pull it all together. They simply came here, looked at what needed to be done, and got busy.”
Sodexo had approximately six weeks to plan and execute the six major catered events. Every detail from menus to decorations had to be meticulously planned. Each individual brought their creativity, energy, and an unwavering determination to ensure that the first woman to lead Alcorn State University would be treated with the utmost respect.
"This was truly a learning experience for me, and I am so glad that I was able to receive support from Michael Fulkerson and other team members in order to make sure that all the chefs had exactly what they needed," says Unit Marketing Coordinator, Dillian West.
The Alcorn State University family witnessed some of the most elegant receptions and plated dinners. Every event featured a sparkling decor and exquisite food arrangements for Alcornites and invited participants to enjoy. Guests dined on regional delicacies—spicy crawfish, gourmet sandwiches, delectable desserts, and many other delightful dishes artfully created by the Sodexo team.
What no one was privy to was the small but dedicated team of staff that worked together seamlessly to make it all happen. "It was amazing to see the collaboration of all the Sodexo chefs,” says Regional Executive Chef Wesley Turnage. “Everyone from Vice President Guillory’s region worked together to make sure all the food and events were top notch for Dr. Nave’s historic inauguration!" Dr. Nave expressed her appreciation for Sodexo’s commitment best when she spoke to the Sodexo staff: “Thank you sooooo very much! The Sodexo team was phenomenal—delivering extraordinary food and excellent service. Everything was first-rate. Our guests were blown away. Again, thank you for your part and team’s role in helping make my inauguration memorable.”
Weeks later, the Sodexo team was called on for an encore performance by event coordinators to “recreate” the inauguration menu items and catering experience at the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion commemorating Alcorn’s 150th anniversary.
Dr. Nave’s leadership is a testament to progress. She is a scholar and administrator, but first a Black woman from the state of Mississippi. Her ascendancy to this current position, to lead her alma mater, is an occasion that merited the special endeavor. In this case, a small group of dedicated individuals made it their mission, traveling long distances from neighboring states, to work together to give her inspired service. The Sodexo team was powered by the dedication to their craft, the company’s commitment to professionalism, and a pure love for the woman at the center of this momentous occasion.
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