Industry Partnership Benefits Students

Viking Range supplies new test kitchen for students in nutrition and hospitality management

Chef Dru Jones, an instructor and food specialist in the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, tries out one of the new Viking ranges in the Lenoir Hall Test Kitchen. Students will be able to train on professional-grade appliances under the department’s partnership with Viking Range, a Mississippi company. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Thanks to a continuing partnership with Viking Range, students in the University of Mississippi Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management will enjoy a new test kitchen to perfect their skills, while preparing for careers in one of Mississippi’s leading sectors: the tourism and hospitality industry.

Viking Range, manufacturer of professional-grade ranges for homes, recently offered its product for use in the new NHM training kitchen at the university’s South Oxford Campus, as well as in the department’s existing campus classrooms in Lenoir Hall.

“The new ranges will allow students to train on industry-leading products manufactured here in Mississippi,” said Melinda Valliant, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

By helping offset the costs, this partnership provided state-of-the-art equipment valued at nearly $150,000, supporting hands-on learning for students. Training future hospitality professionals is important to support the strong culinary and tourism industries, both of which play a large part in Mississippi’s economy, and is among ways UM supports economic growth in the state, Valliant said.

“We are so appreciative of the support that we receive from Viking Range,” she said. “This partnership benefits our students in so many ways, in particular by providing them with excellent equipment on which to receive their training.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the fantastic professionals at Viking for years to come.”

Enhancing opportunities for student experiences is a priority, said Peter Grandjean, dean of the School of Applied Sciences.

Thanks to the partnership between Viking Range and the university, Ole Miss student Caitland Jones (center) spent a summer interning at The Alluvian Hotel and Spa in Greenwood. Pictured with Jones are Kelly Castle (left), The Alluvian’s spa director, and Beth Williams, the hotel’s general manager. Viking Range, which owns the hotel, helped the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management acquire equipment worth $150,000. Photo by Austin Ivy/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I join department chair, Dr. Melinda Valliant, and the Nutrition and Hospitality Management faculty and students in celebrating the arrival of brand-new Viking ranges,” Grandjean said. “This equipment is the very best in the industry and will add value to our students’ educational experiences.

“Our degree programs and community services are infused with world-class Mississippi hospitality and flavor. For us to partner with an internationally acclaimed company with longstanding Mississippi roots makes this extra special.”

Despite COVID-19 challenges, Viking maintained its commitment to host an intern from NHM, who spent the summer working in Greenwood at the Viking-owned Alluvian Hotel and Spa.

“Having this opportunity with The Alluvian Hotel and Spa has helped give me great experience in the industry,” said Caitland Jones, of Cleveland. “It has been very insightful with the inner workings of the organization, along with service to the Greenwood community and beyond.

“I have gained many skills for providing guest services even given certain limitations with this pandemic. I feel my career has greatly benefited, and I will be able to optimize strategies to create unique guest experiences in any area I choose in the field of hospitality.”

Beth Tackett, UM alumna and director of human resources at Viking Range, helped initiate discussions with the university about a broader partnership. Kevin Brown, UM alumnus and president of Viking Range, and CFO Jane Moss also have been involved with growing the relationship at Ole Miss through the university’s increased focus on expanding engagement with the industry.

Besides its partnership with the NHM department, Viking Range recruits Ole Miss students in the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the School of Engineering for internships and full-time roles with the company. Classes designed to amplify learning experiences for students also have been conducted at the company’s Greenwood facility.

The new ranges provided by industry partner and Mississippi company Viking Range will allow UM students to train on professional-grade appliances. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“We are honored to have our products showcased on campus and available for the NHM students,” Tackett said. “We look forward to continuing to develop our partnership with NHM, CME and the School of Engineering.

“The Viking brand is an American icon, and our Mississippi roots and support of the university are extremely important to us.”

Viking Range was founded in Greenwood in 1987 and acquired by Middleby Corp. in 2012. Besides The Alluvian, which houses Giardina’s Restaurant, the company owns and operates the Viking Cooking School and four manufacturing facilities.

For more information on the university’s industry-engagement efforts, contact Hughes Miller at or 901-490-0622.

For more information about giving opportunities in the School of Applied Sciences, contact William Fisher, development associate for the school, at 662-915-2293 or To learn more about the school and its mission, visit