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Welcome to the ARA's Stories Section!

Alumni Making an Impact
Features alumni who are making a difference for Rice on campus and in their communities.

Alumni in the News
Highlights stories that are gathered from the media through the hard work of the ARA's Alumni Recognition Committee, which recognizes and celebrates achievements of Rice alumni, faculty, students, staff and university friends by sending hand-written notes and emails. If you are interested in volunteering for the committee, contact Tara Quell, assistant director, alumni relations at 713-348-4694.

Rice Coffeehouse — Caffeinating Campus Culture since 1990

Behind the Scenes at Rice’s Most Popular Student-Run Business

Half drink
It appears like a typical, urban coffeehouse — cushy couches scattered amongst tables and chairs, trays of golden croissants lining the front case and, underlying everything, the permeating scent of coffee beans. In Rice Coffeehouse, however, it is students who prepare the coffee, order the supplies, manage the finances and keep the business in the black. One of only three student-run businesses officially sponsored by the Rice Student Center, Coffeehouse is simultaneously a cherished campus gathering point and a thriving experiment in entrepreneurship. We wanted an inside look at what makes Coffeehouse so successful, so we sat down with some of the managerial staff to learn how Coffeehouse is shaping their Rice experience. 

 

student at coffee bar

 

Emily Rychener

Emily Rychener ’19

Title: General Manager
Major: Statistics
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Favorite Coffeehouse Drink: Nutty Bee, an iced latte with espresso, milk, honey, hazelnut and vanilla.

Tell us about your responsibilities: As general manager, I oversee our team of nine managers and hold meetings with the managers as well as with the KOCs (Keepers of Coffee), which totals about 43 people. On a daily basis, I’m checking in with my managers, answering questions and problem-solving.

What has Coffeehouse taught you about business? My managerial responsibilities have taught me a lot about leadership and, for sure, delegation. I’ve learned so much about working through logistical issues, which is essentially time management. Right now, I’m in a few accounting classes, and keeping Coffeehouse in mind when my professor uses examples in class is really interesting.

What’s a little-known fact about Coffeehouse? Coffeehouse jokingly calls itself the best college. The people who work at Coffeehouse become very close. We even have our own Beer Bike theme. This year it’s called Corporate House. It’s sort of a joke on corporate Starbucks. We’ve designed a logo that’s our squirrel made to look like the Starbucks mermaid.

 

coffee house sketchbook

 

Zoe Levert

Zoe Levert ’19

Title: Catering Manager
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Mandeville, Louisiana

Favorite Coffeehouse Drink: My favorite drink changes every week. Right now, it’s a drink that I created — a chocolate, caramel and hazelnut latte that tastes a lot like turtle cookies.

Tell us about your responsibilities: Along with managing incoming orders, we are completely redoing the current catering system, working on new menus, new pricing and, soon, a new advertising campaign. This includes experimenting with adding specialty coffees to the catering menu. For example, we are working on making a Milky Way — a latte with chocolate and caramel. We can’t really transport espresso — it doesn’t last that long. So we are adjusting the recipe to be made with a coffee concentrate called toddy.

What has Coffeehouse taught you about business? Coffeehouse has really helped me to develop management skills, which are very much about personal accountability. As catering manager, I have to determine what happens if someone does not meet the requirements for their role within catering. What are we going to do about it? What’s appropriate? What’s fair? Learning how to develop a direct management style is something I’ve really appreciated.

What’s a little-known fact about Coffeehouse? Not everyone who works at Coffeehouse likes coffee!

 

Coffee House student workers

 

Lauren Palladino ’21

Title: Finance Manager
Major: Political science and economics
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Favorite Coffeehouse Drink: I’m a fan of black, iced coffee.

Tell us about your responsibilities: On a weekly basis, I’ll handle deposits, credit cards and interdepartmental transfers. I also manage the profit and loss statements each month, ensuring that we are profitable and that we use what we make appropriately within Coffeehouse. More or less, my role is telling people what they can or can’t buy. We just bought a new ice machine, and I had to give the go-ahead and say, “Okay, we have the money in our budget.”

What has Coffeehouse taught you about business? Managing as a second-semester freshman has certainly been interesting. I was really afraid, going into it, that this would put me at a disadvantage. But if there’s anything I’ve discovered, it’s that the people who work at Coffeehouse are genuinely good people. I’m also getting better at holding people accountable. In the first weeks and months, it was hard, as a freshman, to tell people, “You messed up,” or “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

What’s a little-known fact about Coffeehouse? Customers can invent their own drinks. Someone once ordered an octo-shot, iced Americano. It was sort of terrifying.

 

Coffee house menu

 

Sarah Gao

Sarah Gao ’20

Title: Inventory Manager
Major: Study of women, gender and sexuality
Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Favorite Coffeehouse Drink: The Trouble Root, a latte with ginger and honey.

Tell us about your responsibilities: I am in charge of stocking everything that is not immediately perishable, and I’m also in charge of coming up with the rotating drips and rotating syrups. We have four new specialty drinks each month, and I create three of those. I aim for two latte-based drinks and one that is different — that doesn’t have coffee in it. Usually, one of those drinks incorporates our most popular flavors: vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate or caramel. For the other, I branch out a little bit and I pull in flavors that no one really knows about. I can use this as a platform to bring attention to the different flavors of Coffeehouse.

What has Coffeehouse taught you about business? In my role, I communicate directly with our vendors, Katz and Cisco. Katz is small, personable and based in Houston, but Cisco is a big corporation and my calls get transferred around a lot. It’s been a really good experience in terms of learning communication skills, and it’s also helped me get over my phone anxiety.  

What’s a little-known fact about Coffeehouse? In our back stockroom, we have a bunch of random, really weird, leftover bottles of miscellaneous syrups.

 

The Half Drink

Professor Mike Gustin’s Half Drink: Subtitled alternately “the drink of a radical moderate” or “compromise or death,” the Half Drink was devised by Gustin, professor of biochemistry and cell biology, as the perfect afternoon beverage. 

Can't make it to campus to get your caffeine fix? Connect with Coffeehouse online at their Facebook page or coffeehouse.rice.edu.

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