Thanksgiving dinner, with 700 Maverick guests

Tanya Bedi enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner at UTA.
Tanya Bedi

As campus started to wind down for the Thanksgiving holiday, The University of Texas at Arlington brought together students, faculty and staff for a night full of food and giving thanks.

Tanya Bedi, a senior studying business, is enjoying a semester exchange program with UT Arlington. She is from Singapore.

“I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made here and the community I’ve found at UTA,” Bedi said. “I’ve made friends in my classes, and this is a such a good way to celebrate with friends when it’s hard to go home to see family.”

The campus-wide Thanksgiving feast, which began in 2017, has its roots in an annual potluck Thanksgiving dinner that the Office of International Education organized for international and study abroad students to introduce them to the American Thanksgiving experience. Now UTA, which has approximately 6,000 international students from more than 100 countries, invites all of its students, faculty and staff to partake.

UTA Executive Chef Maya Gajic, who moved to the United States from Yugoslavia when she was 8, is ultimately responsible for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner than can feed approximately 700 Mavericks. She and her team began brining turkeys last Thursday.

“I love these kinds of events, and I’m grateful for the family atmosphere at UTA,” Gajic said. “Even though many of us are from other countries and UTA is very diverse in terms of cultures and international students, we take the time to learn from each other.”

Along with being an opportunity for on-campus camaraderie, the celebration also provides a meal for students who are unable to travel home for the holidays. That includes Johnny Engelke, a UTA senior majoring in clarinet performance.

“I traditionally love homemade green bean casserole. But here tonight, this butternut squash ravioli? I saw it on the menu, and I have been looking forward to it all day,” he said.

Tanya Bedi enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner at UTA.
UTA President Jennifer Cowley shares her thoughts on the Gratefulness Wall.

UTA President Jennifer Cowley wished students and staff “a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving” as she walked around to several tables. She admitted, “I’m a cranberry sauce person myself, but I really enjoyed the brussels sprout salad tonight,” which included roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash garnished with cranberries, candied pecans and maple dressing.

A tree fashioned out of colorful paper was created for UTA’s Gratefulness Wall. Mavericks could share what they were thankful for on autumn-colored “leaves” and attach it to the wall. The thankful thoughts will be left up until after Thanksgiving break to provide encouragement for students as the end of the semester draws near.

One such leaf read: “I am grateful for my loved one’s support, and for the happy memories we have shared together this year.”

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