Integrative Learning that's Filling!

Dr. Jim Painter, professor, EIU School of Family and Consumer Sciences, dreamed of creating a fully-functional, student-run café at Eastern, similar to one he was involved in operating at the University of Illinois called Bevier cafeteria. His dream became a reality with the start of the 2012-2013 academic year when EIU unveiled The Café, a student-led food service geared toward EIU faculty and staff.

The Café began with the conversion and upgrading of the commercial kitchen in Klehm Hall. Once completed, the commercial kitchen began hosting catering, food service, and sanitation classes. The focus then moved to creating a usable space for patrons to enjoy a meal, with the added benefit that the dining area could also be utilized as a classroom and meeting space when needed.

Current visitors to The Café would never know that only a few years ago the seating area was a little used storage space, one that now features an open seating concept with windows peering onto the adjacent hall-way, giving an airy, comfortable feel to The Café. Visit The Café link to view photos of the construction as it progressed. The Café also includes a dry storage room and an office space for faculty and students.

Dr. Painter is proud of his students, each of whom has played a vital role in operating The Café, saying, “Students conceptualized the idea of The Café, developing the menus, producing the foods, and operating the facility”. This hands-on experience is a core teaching technique within the Lumpkin College of Business and Applied Sciences (LCBAS). An academic area within LCBAS, the School of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) places particular emphasis on student engagement and learning through a process referred to as integrative learning.

“We offer our students challenging, hands-on learning that allows them to apply their classroom experiences through real-world applications”, noted Dr. Jeanne Lord, Associate Dean, LCBAS. “The skills our students acquire will prove useful in their career development. We are graduating students with the necessary classroom learning, coupled with vital experiences outside of the traditional classroom”. To view an on-line video about LCBAS’s Integrative Learning process, please visit the LCBAS Integrative Learning link.

Chris Starbird, an FCS student from Champaign, was intrigued by the focus on hands-on learning,

“(I) was between Eastern and the University of Illinois….but the Hospitality program at EIU is much more suited to me and I feel like the smaller student body at EIU makes it much easier to get involved”.

For Starbird, that opportunity for involvement has meant taking a leading role in managing The Café for the current academic year.

“I want to own my own café someday, so this is hands-down the best experience I could have in school to work towards that. I’ve worked in a few coffee shops, but managing this one (The Café) is definitely going to be a different experience because I’m going to be learning how to organize all of it and implement systems as opposed to just operating within an organization that someone else created”.

Fellow student, Ellen Vore, also plans to utilize her hands-on learning at The Café, but in a different way. Vore, an FCS student from Bethalto, will apply her newly acquired skills in the classroom as a high school FCS teacher,

“With my future career being one in education, I believe that the integrative learning opportunities are beneficial to me. I feel that students learn best when they are able to use their hands. I think that it makes the information stick and they will be able to apply it more accurately later in life”.

The Café operates Monday through Thursday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and features a wide-selection of coffees and teas, as well as light foods such as yogurt and pastries. Vore enjoys the learning environment at The Café, “I love learning how to work all of the equipment needed to make the various drinks. Foods and cooking are one of my favorite subject areas and if ever the need arose, I will be able to share this information with my students”.

As Dr. Painter explains, the long-term focus of The Café is to provide students, “a fully functioning integrative learning environment where students gain real world experience”.

It’s an ambitious goal that Starbird feels will serve both him and other students well in their careers. Says Starbird, “Not only does it look good on my resume, but also management is what I want to do as a career. It’s a better experience than any student could ask for and is just about the most ideal situation for me. Dr. Painter talks about how it’s all about “what you actually do” and that it’s irrelevant as to whether what you’re doing it at a job or at school. I’m quite grateful for this opportunity”.

To learn more about “The Café, please visit our web site at http://www.eiu.edu/cafe/index.php.