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At Second Saxbys Café, Experiential Learning Finds a New Home

Drexel President John Fry, right, with Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer.

June 28, 2017

The line stretched out the door Tuesday morning at the newest home of experiential learning at Drexel University: the second Saxbys coffee shop to open on campus, now inside the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building.

Students were buzzing on both sides of the counter — some sipping on pay-what-you-wish cold brews and smoothies on opening day, others working quickly on the sparkling new equipment behind the registers to keep the customers satisfied. Drexel President John Fry joined Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer for a celebratory shot of espresso to mark the occasion, and Fry reflected on the relationship the two entities have shared since Bayer first suggested a new format for on-the-job education.

“I believe our University does its best work in partnerships, and this has been an exemplary partnership for the last four years,” said Fry.

Bayer recalled a sleepless night on April 13, 2015, overwhelmed by nerves when Saxbys opened its first student-run café on campus at 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue. But the Drexel students operating every aspect of the business put his mind at ease, he said.

“The next day, I saw one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced in business: I watched young people run a business far better than I was able to at that age, and probably at this age,” said Bayer. “And so we stand here a little more than two years later, and President Fry and his team are giving us the opportunity to do that a second time.”

Fry acknowledged the “incredible” students at the Workshop School, several of whom were in the café to see guests using the furniture they built to outfit the space. The pay-what-you-wish opening day event raised $3,000, and Saxbys matched the funds to contribute a total of $6,000 to the school.

Fifty-eight Drexel students and alumni are now employed by Saxbys, accounting for more than $550,000 of payroll, and 14 students have worked co-ops with Saxbys. Three graduates from the class of 2017 are already working full-time for the coffee company. With two entirely student-run cafés now on campus, the opportunities for Dragons to work and learn will continue to grow.

Both Fry and Bayer took time Tuesday to praise the work of Tauheed Baukman, a junior business and engineering student in the LeBow College of Business who will be running the new café.

“That’s a young man who’s going to make a huge, huge difference in this world,” said Bayer.

“You exemplify exactly what we’re hoping for Drexel students to have, which is amazing, challenging, real-world experiences, running your own operation,” Fry told Baukman.

The crowd streaming through the new café might have been focused on lattes and iced coffees, but the future of the space is just as much about the doors it will open for students ready to learn about operating a business.

“Experiential learning, in John’s words to me, is the future of education,” said Bayer. “It’s about giving young people the opportunity to learn by doing.”

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