Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cafe Crawl for Credit

"For me, coffee is a way to connect our students to the wider world." -James Hayes-Bohanan, geography professor #HumansofBSU
Posted by Bridgewater State University on Friday, November 13, 2015

I am very pleased to have been included in my university's #HumansofBSU series of vignettes about members of the campus community. I am even more pleased that it was one of my students who suggested I be invited to participate. It was a great opportunity for me to talk about the relationship between two of my favorite subjects -- geography and coffee -- and how both relate to my work with students. More on those relationships can be found in Coffee Bellwethers -- a somewhat longer video recorded in April of this year as part of the first annual TEDxBSU event. My Geography of Coffee web site points to many more facets of the work, and I enjoy giving occasional public lectures on coffee to a wide variety of audiences in our region. (Note the lectures link seriously needs updating, but the frequency and types of such lectures continue in a similar vein.)
Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe connects customers to their local community and the world community of coffee growers like no other. It will be part of the Coffee Week (NOT Weak) course in July 2016.
Travel Courses
The real opportunities for learning, of course, come in my credit-bearing courses on the subject, in which I am able to serve as a sort of bridge between my students and the many extraordinary coffee experts I am privileged to know. The courses, mentioned in the video above, include a travel course (a.k.a. study tour) in Nicaragua each January. The course last two weeks and usually costs just under $3,000. Well over 100 people have participated since the first tour in 2006. Everyone who has gone agrees that it is money well spent, but of course not everybody has that kind of money to spend.

Because I also know that a number of area teachers are interested but cannot travel in January, I'm hoping to offer a Peru version of the trip some day. Meanwhile, because our travel course did not get enough students to run in January 2016, we are going to pilot a new kind of academic travel -- a non-credit tour of the coffeelands of Nicaragua in January 2016. The cost will be about $1600, and details will be posted here by November 20.

Classroom Courses
With over a dozen sections offered since 2007, the other coffee class mentioned in the video is a Second-Year Seminar entitled the Secret Life of Coffee. Well over 200 students have taken this course, including about a dozen who participated in the travel course as well. In addition to general discussions of the coffee industry and the book Javatrekker, students report on coffee shops as individuals and work in small groups to organize a major coffee tasting and fair for the campus community.

As popular as the seminar is, many interested students are not able to take it because only second-year students are eligible. For years, I have been looking for a third way, and just this week -- between the recording of the "Humans" video and its posting online, the university announced a new course format that is perfect for a new course.

The Third Way
In order to promote new approaches to summer teaching, the university is supporting one- and two-week programs that would meet every day for a full or half day, respectively. The idea is to allow longer time frames for different kinds of experiences, including regional travel and guest speakers, and an overall more intensive learning experience that might be easier for some students to schedule.

Given this format, it did not take long to develop a week-long program, and my brilliant wife Pamela (who named the Secret Life of Coffee course) suggested a play on the word "week." Hence:

GEOG 400: Coffee Week (NOT Weak)
That really is the proposed title, with tentative dates of Monday to Friday, July 18-22, 2016 (if not the week before). This will be a three-credit course, available to all. I will soon know details of the cost, if any, of proposed cafe visits. Below are the course description and a tentative schedule.

The purpose of this course is to learn about coffee as a global commodity, an agricultural product, and a cultural vehicle. Drawing on more than a decade of experience and contacts in all segments of the industry, this course is an intensive exploration of the physical, human, and environmental geography of coffee. Through readings, lectures, film, music, and site visits, students will emerge from the week with a much greater appreciation for coffee and the 10 million people who make a living from this globally popular beverage. The course culminates with a service project in which the students share their newfound coffee knowledge with the campus and surrounding community.

Meets Daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Order of activities subject to change

Café Jumpstart – local cafe
Coffee Workshop – field to cup
Roasting lecture by BSU alum / master roaster
Café Jumpstart – local cafe 
Roasting field trip – 2 specialty roasters in our region
Café Jumpstart – local cafe
Coffee on currency, stamps, and film
Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History
Café Crawl – visiting innovative cafés throughout the region, including Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe in Clinton (shown above)
Café Service – creating a temporary, teaching café for the campus community


I'm glad you asked! Current BSU students can just look for GEOG 400 in the listings for summer classes. The course has no prerequisites -- the 400 is just a number applied to all of our special-topics classes. And what topic is more special than coffee? That's right: none.

For non-BSU students, we have a single office to help navigate the application, registration, payment, and transfer bureaucracies. Visit the BSU SUMMER page of our College of Continuing Studies for all the details, or call 508-531-2788.

Then choose your favorite travel mug and clear your calendar for a week of caffeinated learning!

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