|Cafes and coffee class catches national media buzz
RELEASED: March 3, 2005
DANVILLE, KYFrom CNN and MTV to Stars and Stripes, media outlets are buzzing about a Centre College course that studied coffee, cafes and the social synergy created when the two come together.
Sociology professor Beau Weston's class "Cafes and Public Life" was profiled in an Associated Press article that has appeared in more than a dozen print publications from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. It has also generated interest among the MTV generation: a follow-up article appeared on mtv.com this week titled "Coffeehouses 101: Nobody's Falling Asleep In This Class." http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1497632/20050301/index.jhtml?headlines=true.
Weston knew his class was making news, but he didn't know the extent of its impact until his colleague Jim Leady called to tell him he had read about itin Iraq.
Weston said that it "made my day" when he got an e-mail message from Leady, a Centre professor and a major in the Army Reserves who was recently called up to serve in Iraq.
"I was flipping through the Stars and Stripes, [the daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military], the other day," Leady wrote Weston, "just my third day in theater, and I saw your friendly face and a nice article about your CentreTerm class! It really is a small world. It was nice to show the other people in the office where I work. It assisted my bragging about Centre!"
Weston's class, which studied, among other things, the coffee industry, the effects of caffeine on cafe life, and the "third place" (not home, not work) created by cafes, is part of Centre College's distinctive CentreTerm program, in which students take non-traditional courses, study abroad, or go on internships. The national recognition of the class follows a similar sensation caused last year by professor David Hall's "Basketball as Religion" CentreTerm class, which Weston cites as "an inspiration for making my class as active as possible." Hall's class was featured in numerous local and regional newspapers, the Chronicle of Higher Education, on NPR's weekly sports show "It's Only a Game" and Paul Harvey's "News and Comment" show.
By a remarkable coincidence, Murray Evans, the AP correspondent who wrote both the basketball and cafe stories, was interviewing Weston in Three Babes and a Monkey, a Danville cafe, when David Hall happened to walk in. Evans reconnected with Hall in the cafe and the two discussed a possible follow-up story for next year.
Weston's class has attracted attention from the academic world as well as the media. "A number of students around the country have written to me for advice on papers," he says. "One group at Brown wants to devise their own course, along the same lines." As is often the case with innovative courses, Weston has received a couple of what he calls '"this course is what is wrong with academia' e-mails", which he intends to "answer graciously." He even reports that he has received a box of free sample coffeethe first, no doubt, of many.
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