USM grad to support annual fundraiser

For the 13th year in a row, The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Sport Management is excited to host the “Passions of the Palate.”

This fundraiser event, planned and executed by students in the Convention Management class, will be elegant and memorable for anyone who attends.

Advisors and students are proud to celebrate from 5:30-10 p.m. Monday, April 17, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center.  Guests are invited to enjoy this event of exceptional taste and entertainment. The theme for this year’s event is “Taste of Spring,” featuring tasty delicacies and beautiful arrangements for the spring season.

The silent auction will feature some of the  South’s finest hotels, winery and art throughout the night. There will also be hotel accommodations in Atlanta and cruises sponsored by Ship Island Excursions.

There will be plenty of incredible items to bid on, plenty of food to satisfy your appetite and a variety of entertainment for an enjoyable evening.

The featured guest chef for the event is Hattiesburg’s Katie Dixon, a contestant from “MasterChef” Season 7 and a University of Southern Mississippi graduate. Dixon will prepare phenomenal meals, which highlight different food from a spring harvest.

“Passions of the Palate” was started by Dr. Catherine Price. Her tremendous amount of work and dedication to the event has left many of past attendees satisfied and amazed. After Price’s retirement in 2015, Dr. Wei Wang, the faculty advisor for Passions, has directed and organized this event, determined to make this year’s event more diverse and more widespread to all people.

Students from the Passions class partner themselves into different groups, such as Programming, Attendees, Auctions and Promotion, to ensure the event is executed efficiently.

“The fundraiser allows students to develop great communication networking skills by searching at different areas for donation and to gain hands-on experience,” said Wang.

Donations and proceeds from the event  provide scholarships for the students, which allows them to attend different conference and conventions. In the past, students have had the opportunity to travel to the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, the American Hotel & Lodging annual convention in New York City and the world’s second-largest gaming exposition, G2E, in Las Vegas. Approximately $40,000 was awarded to students during the past four years, which wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Passions supporters.

Tickets are currently available. Early Bird Special (through March 19) – Individual: $100; Table: $800; Regular Sales (March 20-April 16) – Individual: $125; Table: $1,000.

Tickets can be purchased through the event website or by mailing a check to: Passions of the Palate, (ATTN to Dr. Wei Wang), 118 College Drive Box 5022, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

For more information, please contact us at: or check our Facebook page: University of Southern Mississippi Passions of the Palate.


Meet the Chef

Mississippi native Katie Dixon and a resident of Hattiesburg, is best known for her appearance on Season 7 of “MasterChef.”

The Brookhaven native attended The University of Southern Mississippi, graduating in Marketing. During her college career, she participated in many activities, such as Southern Style, Intramurals and Greek life.

USM’s College of Business enhanced her culinary dreams by helping her operate her own restaurant, Shine, a quaint boutique restaurant featuring a modern industrial rustic environment.

Since appearing on “MasterChef,” Dixon has had the opportunity to promote her platform, influencing a healthier lifestyle, in Mississippi. She is extremely passionate about healthy living and meal prepping for her personal training clients. The type of foods she enjoys preparing are internationally inspired by Southern roots.

The best advice she gives other aspiring chefs is to ‘dream big and reach for greatness, even though you might make mistakes along the way.’ Dixon does her best to help people find happiness through healthy eating and living. She wants to give her gratitude back to the city that has contributed so much to her career, and is excited to share her talents with attendees at Passions.