Class: add cream and sugar

Local coffee shop allows professors to host classes outside.

By Wesley Higgins, NEWS EDITOR
On November 6, 2014

The coffee shop is the traditional scene for students cramming and professors grading, but it’s always remained an escape from the classroom. 

But now, Felicitous Coffee and Tea is inviting professors to teach their class in the backyard of the coffee shop.

Rebecca Burns, a professor in the College of Education, said she brought her class to Felicitous as an alternative to a cramped classroom.

“It was a beautiful day, the backyard was just the right climate and atmosphere to have an open and honest discussion,” she said. “Felicitous is my hidden gem.”

Less than a mile away from USF, Felicitous is a hut tucked right off Fowler Avenue that is known for its boutique style.

The shop won Best of the Bay for its assorted menu of coffees and teas, such as gunpowder tea, honey bear latte and red-velvet hot chocolate. 

Britani Farley, manager of Felicitous and a USF graduate, said the idea to invite classes came to her when classes were cancelled during hurricane season a few years ago.

“There was a hurricane coming towards us, but this teacher was not in the mood to cancel his first class,” she said. “He emailed his students and asked if they wanted to meet here.”

Farley said the experiment was fruitful in creating an inspired learning environment. 

“Circles are the best way to get free-for-all talking among students,” she said. “It makes it a lot easier to have a discussion when you can see every face.”

Despite classes being held outside, Farley said she isn’t concerned with students getting distracted.

“Very few students would think to pull out their laptops and be on Facebook when you’re professor is walking around,” she said. “It would be so much easier to focus on a teacher talking if you’re out in the middle of a lawn — it’s peaceful.”

Terrence Campbell, a senior majoring in economics and a regular customer, said Felicitous provides the sort of environment he looked for in liberal education.

“The general atmosphere of acceptance really does foster an interchanging of ideas,” he said. “A lot of discussions happen here between so many different people that we end up creating new ideas.”

A stranger once taught him to juggle, Campbell said. In return, he taught his new friend to play chess. 

“It’s a community,” said Abby Rupert, a junior majoring in international business. “Everyone knows everyone — everyone is on the same page.” 

The staff treats customers like friends, she said, instead of walking wallet sacrifices for corporate profit. 

Farley said students and faculty make up the majority of the community, and that the draw of Felicitous makes sense. 

“Caffeine is a staple for almost every college student’s life,” she said. “Students don’t always want to support corporations and like to support local business.”

After receiving positive feedback from her students, Burns said she would like to hold class there again. 

“I get more done there than I do anywhere else,” she said. “I think it’s the atmosphere that allows us to step back and really open up those creative juices.”

The offer to hold classes in the backyard has only spread through word of mouth and social media, Farley said. If the idea gets more popular, professors will have to make a request up to two weeks in advance.

“We just want to share this space we have with other
people,” she said. “Though we can make it more organized if we hear more interest.”

Farley said the backyard of Felicitous is large enough for privacy and the adjacent wall could be used for projections.

“We love the idea of it,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can refute that studying outside is a good thing, especially when the weather is this lovely.”

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