NIDIA 23: Vegetarianism at Texas Woman’s: Best Leadership Lesson

When: Sometime back 🙂

Where: Denton, Texas

Being a vegetarian in Denton, Texas is not a hard job. However, when I first came to TWU in 2012, being a vegetarian while eating in the on-campus dining hall was hard. Not because there were no options. It was because veggie burgers were grilled on the same grill as hamburgers, and other vegetarian options included steamed or raw vegetables. Raised in a home where we were taught never ever to complain about the quality of food that we were blessed with for each meal, I wasn’t particularly disappointed. But then it begins to hurt 🙂 Having to eat steamed vegetables (I am a fan of both Popeye and Spinach so stop smiling.Its just that steamed veggies can begin to kill your spirits after a point). Then started my efforts to find places that made good vegetarian food on order in Denton (Will share a list sometime).

Then 2014 happens to us at TXWomans. I swear my life changed

For anyone who knows me, cooking vegetarian meals, bringing the reference of food into every discussion about high-quality human life, and talking non-stop about the pride I have for being a good cook are no new topics. So in the second half of 2014 when a new change made its way to our campus in Denton, I knew I had to hang on for a little bit longer before calling quits to my disappointment in other quarters of campus life.

Soon there was an option for us students to write to the University’s Chancellor. And the me that you know *evil grinning*, dusted off my key board and wrote to the Chancellor’s website about multiple things. This was primarily because, at the same time I was also getting trained in the nuances of educational leadership. And here it was. Changes in leadership, new evaluation and communication systems in place. I was the most excited person on the campus I guess. Late last month, I went into my writing logs and noticed that I had written to the University’s Chancellor (through her website) on about four topics.

Three of those issues are FIXED

While I can’t elaborate on two of them, I can tell you what one was.

Last month when we had a fair on campus, I walked to TWU’s Dining Services table and started praising them for providing more and more vegan options and for upgrading so many of their services. The Food Services Director calmly walks over with his hands folded and says with a smile,

You see that tall tower over there? Someone in one of those top floors, its all them! They care! Thank them.

One of the early topics I studied in my educational leadership classes was communication of educational leaders and how to hear everyone’s voices out to become an authentic educational leader. You see Learn by Doing  as a commonly used phrase on campus at TWU. Here I have learnt by watching how it is done.

How leadership roles can be class acts!

How bringing in change is hard but not impossible!

From where I come, feeding someone a hearty meal, not expecting anything back in return, wishing that they do well in their lives is life mantra that is practiced and preached as much as possible.

Since the early times when I realised that someone was reading my suggestions, I have actively encouraged every ‘complaining’ student on campus I came across to write their concerns/suggestions to the Chancellor’s website. Quite a few of them didn’t know of it and would say later, “Wow! it works! I tried..”

Last month, a friend of mine was being awarded for her research work and she was kind enough to invite me to the luncheon. I was sitting at our table when the Chancellor walked in and I greeted her. As obvious it is that it was a huge event and she had to quickly respond and moved onto greet the dignitaries at the event. A few moments later I hear a familiar voice tapping me on shoulder and saying something like, “Hi Sri, I had to go say hello to someone….”

I turn back to see the Chancellor. I am immediately trying to get up from my chair when she puts her hands on my shoulders and forces me back to my seat and says, “No, No, don’t get up. How was your trip to home? I saw the beautiful photo you posted this morning, it made me so happy!”

While I am responding to her plainly, inside my heart was screaming.

“Are you kidding me! You remember I went home and came back in one piece? Then you remember both me and my professor and you feel happy that we are happy in that picture? You know my name and you know I was travelling to go home…my thoughts were racing endlessly”

As funny as it may sound, that conversation just blew my brains. Not that I didn’t know from before how authentic she is, but because it happened to me.

When kindness is showered on you generously,

When people care in real,

When someone as important as her remembers you and inquires about you and your family,

It leaves an overwhelmingly positive impression on your mind

Collage of three images. Left portrait of Sri Chennapragada and Dr. Carine Feyten. Right portrain of Dr. Feyten's address at the awards luncheon. Right hand bottom corner image is of a vegan meal from TWU's Dining Services

Meet Dr. Carine Feyten, President and Chancellor of Texas Woman’s University.

There are some that teach you in school but then there are others that lead you.

And I am an extremely Proud Pioneer to be lead by such an exemplary educational leader who believes in bringing a breath of fresh air to the campus climate here at TWU. And she does it with a smile on her face always.

Today, at TWU, someone like me with restricted food needs,

  • Can eat 3 different types of entrees
  • Endless options for fresh healthy salads
  • At least two yoghurts and 4 options of fresh fruit
  • 2 Desserts
  • 2 options of fruits/herb induced waters
  • Locally sourced milk
  • Along with veggie burgers being grilled in ovens all by themselves without any mix up with meat

And it is because Dr. Feyten heard the needs of many students like me who needed healthier food options on campus and she worked hard to make it happen for us. How will this help her directly? May be will keep a foodie like me happy who will always be beaming her teeth out just like how happy I look in this photo.

Dr. Feyten, I love you. Thank you for everything you have been doing for us all. And most importantly because you brought good food on campus *smiling with all my teeth showing*

Note: Any of you (I know who all it will be) commenting on my oiled hair look here is going to adi vaangify from me 🙂 I am trying to handle a terrible situation with my hair and my mom’s organic home remedies keep it oily somedays. And that good day was a bad hair day. While I cringe every time I see the oily hair, Dr. Feyten’s smile fills my heart with joy every time I see it. This proximity to educational leaders and this positivity is ‘new’ for me and I am sure most of you all know why I love this school so much. It just feels like I paid a price in advance for all this happiness.


5 thoughts on “NIDIA 23: Vegetarianism at Texas Woman’s: Best Leadership Lesson

  1. S. Narasimha Rao says:

    Beautifully expressed. Appreciating a good service is very important. You have a nice and wonderful chancellor. I remember my hostel wardens words on the first day of my college at Tanuku. He said ” we have come here to study.we should eat to live and not live to eat.” What a contrast. America is America.


  2. I’m so glad you had a great experience! I am vegan and have few problems with the cafeteria at TWU. There is also a really wonderful woman in charge of dining services, and she has been instrumental in making sure we have options.


    • Hi Carol, Are a student on campus? Feel free to write to Dining Services. I am sure they will make the necessary changes to fix the problems. Who ever this woman is, God bless her 🙂 I eat well these days 😀


  3. Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. The words of love that you have for Dr. Carine Feyten are the same as so many others fill on campus. I love seeing her beautiful smile at all the events and since I just graduated it will me missed. #twupres


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