Coffee Hour: All Are Welcome

Chase Shustack, Reporter

If you’ve ever been in Banks in the morning and smelled the rather powerful scent of coffee, or if you have been in Intermetzo and noticed an unusually large number of students and faculty congregating around the cafe, you likely attended one of the many “Coffee Hours” President Thomas Botzman holds throughout the year.

Botzman holds the events so the campus community can come together and do what people do in the early hours of the morning: have a cup of joe, maybe a few bagels, and shoot the breeze. Students and faculty alike can speak one-on-one with the president in an informal, casual setting and get a positive start to their day ahead.

This sort of casual student-faculty meeting isn’t terribly uncommon. Other schools–Hamilton, St.Mary– do much the same. Botzman, however, took it one step further: He includes himself among the morning group and invites everyone–students, faculty and staff–to join.

“It began almost immediately as soon I got there,” said Botzman. “It originally was for faculty and staff mostly, but I decided to expand it and bring students in.”

President Botzman has kept good on this word, traveling around at varying days, sometimes on Mondays, maybe on Thursdays, to different places around campus. He does this, he explained, to meet with different majors and types of students who attend. On Monday, he could be in Banks, sitting at the Starbucks and talking with anyone who happens by. On Wednesday he could be at Passan Hall, talking with anyone from a nursing lab instructor to a health science major.

These events are to Botzman as fireside chats were to Roosevelt, but do students respond?

Botzman said they do.

“I would say they are pretty popular. Around 50 or so students, more or less,” Botzman said. “Some come by for coffee and bagels, and others just want someone to talk to. It’s mostly different, but some are pretty regular.”

Students who feel nervous about going to one of these coffee breaks have no need to worry about talking themselves into trouble with Botzman. He said he wants each student to feel that they can talk to him about anything, be it fundraisers or happenings around campus.

“I think anytime I offer to pay out for someone’s coffee, they’ll show up,” Botzman joked. “But I really do think it’s important for students to know I’m there. They might have questions about construction, the Relay for Life, plays, and that they can ask me whatever’s on their mind.”

Botzman calls the coffee hours a success, and said the more relaxed atmosphere and nature of the conversations allow students to speak more freely than they could by following some tedious process to arrange a formal meeting just to ask a few questions.

If, however, there is a problem or question Botzman can’t answer alone, he will help connect students to faculty, or vice versa. For example, he could connect a student interested in trying out for baseball to the baseball coach over in Anderson, or he could bring a tutor over from Student Success to help arrange a meeting.

The whole point of the coffee hours is more than just scoring a free coffee to power through an 8 a.m. class, or getting a quick bite before slogging back to the dorm to catch some well-deserved Z’s. It’s about connecting with those on campus a bit more, be they faculty members or officials like the president, and sitting down, shooting the breeze, and getting to know the school a little better.

So if you’re reading this, consider yourself invited to  pull up a chair and have a good cup of coffee on the house.