Story by Sarah Sabatke
Kristen and Syed Hasan’s love story has had its fair share of twists and turns. They came to Mizzou more than a decade ago from different parts of the globe – he from Pakistan and her from St. Charles, Missouri.
Before coming to Missouri, Syed had earned a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Karachi, but he wasn’t sure what to do next. His brother was participating in a medical fellowship in Columbia at the time and encouraged him to come.
Syed took his brother’s advice, moved to Columbia and enrolled at Mizzou as an undergraduate. He got a student-employee job with Campus Dining Services (CDS) at the former Eva J’s restaurant (where Sabai is now located). He enjoyed it so much that he decided to change his major to hotel restaurant management.
Kristen had come to Mizzou to study nutritional sciences. She also was working for CDS, but, somehow, she and Hasan never met. They both graduated in 2005.
But something was holding Kristen back. After graduation, she didn’t want to leave the campus she had called home. She passed her professional exam to become a registered dietitian and started working for campus dining again. The next year, she took an assistant manager position with CDS.
So did Hasan.
The two began working at Plaza 900. Getting to know each other, they soon realized they had both worked for CDS as undergraduates.
This time, things went a little differently.
“We started working together and then that turned into dating and then we got married,” Kristen says.
The couple now has a 5-year-old son and recently welcomed their second child.
From student to mentor
Kristen’s marriage to Syed is just one of the ways she is Mizzou Made. With her dietetics training, she also trained staff members on how to answer students’ questions about nutrition.
The experience led her to pursue a graduate degree in public health at Mizzou, which she received in 2011.
“It fit really well with what we were trying to do with developing a more full-fledged nutrition program within the department,” Kristen says. “As special diet needs became more prevalent within the student population, we didn’t really have a key contact person for handling those kinds of issues.”
Today she is the lead dietitian for CDS and an assistant manager for CDS locations in the MU Student Center.
While she’s learned from coursework and hands-on education over the years, she’s also benefitted from observing the changing student population.
“It’s become very much an area of growth for me to figure out how to offer the service that we want to offer and still meet the expectations of today’s student compared to [the students of] 10 years ago,” she says.
As Kristen works with dietetics students today, she continues to draw upon her own memories of working for CDS as an undergraduate.
“The experience that working as a student gave me while I was in that program I think made a huge difference in how I got to where I am now,” she says.
The National Association of College and University Food Services recognized MU Campus Dining Services in July 2017 for “Most Innovative Wellness and Nutrition Program” in recognition of its culinary nutrition series workshops.
In the workshops, students get hands-on cooking experience. Roughly 12 students gather in the culinary development kitchen, located in the Sabai restaurant for three hours to learn, create and share a meal together. Each workshop has a nutrition-based theme.
“We pick recipes that a student could conceivably do in whatever living situation they might have,” Kristen says.
Current dietetics students attend the workshops to help educate participants as they prepare the dishes.