A student and a professor have a conversation over coffee.

Coffee Chats Connect Students and Professors

Friday, November 17, 2023

Coffee shop chatter surrounds Hans Bryan, ‘25 BSB as he takes a seat at the Caribou Coffee in Hanson Hall. He waits patiently for a few minutes before he notices Corey Nelson, a Senior Lecturer, step into the shop. Bryan rises, shaking Nelson’s hand, and they both get in line to order. From his pocket, Bryan produces a Caribou gift card to pay for both of their drinks.

This gift card was provided by the Carlson Business Board - Undergraduate Student Government as part of their ‘Caribou Coffee Chats’ initiative. This initiative gives students and professors the opportunity to connect outside of class time with free Caribou. 

“Our goal with the Caribou Coffee Chats is to cultivate a community at the Carlson School that promotes professor and student relationships,” said Parker Schumann, ‘26 BSB, Vice President of Curriculum and Career Development of the Carlson Business Board. 

Caribou Coffee Chats create a time and place for students to meet with their professors outside of class. Students gain the opportunity to learn about their professors' past careers, experiences, and the research they are passionate about outside of the classroom. 

Bryan chose to meet with Corey Nelson to discuss career paths and entrepreneurial ventures. Bryan currently runs a bike, e-bike, and e-scooter repair business, and he was interested in hearing about Nelson’s experience starting businesses before and during his time at the Carlson School.

“Corey’s stories and experiences of topics outside of a firm-based or even academic setting were really helpful,” said Bryan. “Talking to him took the intimidation of the entrepreneurship process down a notch.” 

Caribou Coffee Chats benefit students inside the classroom, furthering their understanding of the professor and how they teach. 

“My Caribou Coffee Chat helped me understand the professor's standpoint as to why we are doing certain activities,” said Aleah Anderson ‘26 BSB, who met with Amee McDonald, the Managing Director of the Carlson Impact Lab. “Sometimes in-class activities can feel redundant, but when you hear why the professor is implementing them they start to make sense.” 

Caribou Coffee Chats also provide professors the opportunity to learn from their students. 

“Every time I meet with a student, I gain fresh insights,” said Nelson. “These meetings allow me to discover their thoughts, interests, sources of stress, and everything in between.”

Caribou Coffee Chats allow professors to establish connections with their students, which can be difficult in a classroom setting. Professors can also learn more about their own teaching style.

“I discovered I had taught Aleah’s brother in the marketing capstone course,” said Amee McDonald. “It was really cool to parallel the experiences in the Impact Lab with the capstone. I realized that I was actually piloting some of the concepts in the capstone that I now use in the Impact Lab.”

To set up a Caribou Coffee Chat, students can reach out to any professor and set up a time to meet. They can request a $10 Caribou gift card from BBoard.

“I 100% believe professors and students should make use of this opportunity,” said McDonald. “These chats humanize both the professor and the student. I think there is something about the classroom experience that shifts when you understand your students.”