|Students get a caffeine (and culture) boost
RELEASED: Jan. 20, 2005
DANVILLE, KYWouldn't it be nice to spend a cold winter afternoon curled up in a cozy chair in a café with a cup of java and earn a grade? That's exactly what students in a Centre College course are doing (at least part of the time) for CentreTerm, the college's three-week total immersion into unexpected and interdisciplinary topics.
Students in Beau Weston's "The Café and Public Life" freshman seminar are visiting cafés in Danville, Lexington and Louisville. In addition to studying the history of coffee and its social contributions, they are learning such practical skills as how to make coffee products and how to run the businessand of course sampling all the espresso, cappuccino and caffe latte they desire.
This is the first year Weston has taught the class. The associate professor of sociology says he's always been a fan of cafés, their contributions to public life, and how they give students an alternative place to hang out without alcohol.
"The café provides a 'third' place that's not home or workwhere people who aren't family or co-workers can get together and talk," Weston says.
Weston adds that some of the students had never tried straight coffee without cream and sugar before CentreTerm. The consensus wasn't surprising: strong and bitter.
But some students found the history of coffee and its social impacts enlightening.
Years ago, people congregated to cafés and read aloud to one another because printed matter was scarce and literacy was not yet universal. The students recreated this practice by reading aloud to each other in a café.
The students say they enjoyed learning how this drink influenced the average "Joe." "I'm really interested in anthropology and sociology, and this class is about how cafés affect the social atmosphere," says Travis Tidwell of Jellico, Tenn.
Kimberly Mattingly of Mount Washington, Ky., adds, "There's much more to caffeine that I never knew, things I'd never learn outside of CentreTerm."
Kelly Taulbee from Frankfort, Ky., says she has a deeper appreciation for the farmers who grow the coffee plants.
Other students relished the opportunity to learn about their surroundings and the options they have for social interaction off campus.
"I really liked the fact that we're going to cafés all over," says Audrey Rogers of Dallas. "It's showing me different places I can go. I also like the hands-on aspect of going to different cafés and actually learning how to make espresso."
Nate Crimmins from Greencastle, Ind., sums up his experience: "The class has been fantastic. We've gotten to meet interesting people at hip cafés, and you just can't go wrong chilling at cafés all day. I've learned that cafés have been around a lot longer that I thought, Chai Tea is tastier than I imagined, the coffee industry is humongous and that there's a lot that goes on to get a café up and running. On a sociological level, I learned that people of all types can enjoy a café."
The students are also getting their caffeine boost.
Rogers admits to having had three cups of coffee in one day: a cappuccino, a mocha and a latte.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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