The Culinary Arts Institute at Mississippi University for Women is under the new leadership of Dr. Tracee Watkins, alumnus and experienced culinary professor.


Watkins arrived on campus in mid-July to begin her role as the director of the Culinary Arts Institute at The W. Coming to The W from Florida State University Panama City, Watkins brings more than 15 years of higher education experience.

“I look forward to seeing how this beautiful facility and Dr. Watkins’ leadership will grow our Culinary Arts Institute,” said W President Nora Miller.

As director, Watkins is transitioning the university’s culinary program into the new multi-million-dollar 40,000 square foot culinary facility that features multiple kitchens, equipped with the latest commercial-grade equipment, a chocolate room, tiered classroom and demonstration kitchen with filming and streaming capability. Additionally, she will support efforts to recruit new students, teach culinary management courses and create a strong presence in the community and region.

“It is great to be home. Only at The W can students obtain a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts, and there is no better place to do so. I am honored to showcase our program and new facility that demonstrates the state’s commitment to culinary higher education,” said Watkins.

Watkins is a two-time recipient of the School Nutrition Showcase Research Award from the School Nutrition Association. In 2018, she was named a James Beard Foundation Nation Scholar.

Watkins holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Hospitality and Dietetics Administration with an emphasis in Food Safety and Defense from Kansas State University. She earned her Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Mississippi State University. Watkins received her Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts from The W.

The university will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Culinary Arts Institute Monday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. 

Established in 1996, the Culinary Arts Institute at The W provides interdisciplinary instruction in the culinary arts, emphasizing classic cooking techniques applied to small-quantity food preparation.

In the summer of 2023, CAI began a new chapter in university history with the opening of the new Culinary Arts Building, the largest purpose-built facility for culinary education in the State of Mississippi. In addition to a mastery of cooking skills and knowledge of food service, students prepare for employment and leadership in diverse areas of food studies such as food photography and styling, nutrition and wellness and culinary entrepreneurship.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.