Blogs & Brews A rare opportunity for first-year students to work with a real-world client delivers big gains on both sides.

By Audrey St. Clair ’03 | Photos by Scott Cook

The idea to collaborate with Barnie’s Coffee & Tea was born like so many of the best ideas: from relationships. A Rollins education is built on the open exchange of ideas, on the close-knit connections made between our industrious students and inventive professors. Partnering with the community is an extension of those relationships, allowing students to hone the skills they’re developing in the classroom through real-world, hands-on experience from the moment they step foot on campus.

This fall, English professors Emily Russell and Jana Mathews joined forces with Barnie’s director of marketing, Lauren Eggert, to give first-year students in their Rollins College Conference (RCC) classes an opportunity to eschew the dreaded five-paragraph essay and create professional blog content.

Working for a business on Park Avenue gives new meaning to the phrase “home office” for Rollins students.

The Task

The Barnie’s marketing team identified SEO-friendly words like “healthy coffee,” “coffee with family,” and “storing coffee” and then tasked the students with crafting stories around their assigned topics.

“I loved learning about the health benefits of coffee and how to write about it creatively,” says Brooke Worthington ’21. “This project taught me how to write to sell.”

This project also taught the students how to up their coffee IQ by learning proper cupping, or tasting, techniques (slurping is encouraged) and the difference between hot- and cold-brew methods from Dustin Fleming, the Winter Park-based coffee company’s supervisor of coffee. These hands-on demonstrations helped the students craft more accurate blog posts and compare what they learned in the store to what they were finding in their research.

The Takeaways

“The biggest challenge was learning how writing for a client, even something as informal as a blog, is a different experience than writing for academic purposes,” says Kathleen McCree ’21, who plans to minor in creative writing. “Key search words need to be applied to make your material more accessible to those seeking the information.”

Claire Lambert ’21 agrees. “Learning how to write for a targeted audience while keeping my blog interesting and easy to read was a challenge,” she says. Lambert credits this course and her relationship with Mathews for deciding to pursue a minor in professional writing. “The free samples of cold brew also helped,” she laughs.

Noah Gutierrez ’21 and Claire Lambert ’21 brainstorm creative ways to write about properly storing coffee beans.

Introducing concepts like tone, audience, and voice in a 100-level writing class prepares students for the future by expanding the scope of their audience to include clients and consumers.

“Up until this point in [the students’] lives, the primary audience of most of their written work has been their teacher,” Mathews says. “While this is fine and good, I’m not the one who is going to be evaluating the memos, reports, and pitches that they are going to be making in their post-graduation jobs.”

Getting high-level feedback from the client and exposure to a professional revision process were two key components of this project. “It was important for us to convey that revision and proofreading requests aren’t a special form of torture that college professors inflict upon their students for personal amusement,” says Mathews, “but rather, they are life skills that every employer regardless of industry or field will expect them to master.”

Excited to be collaborating with Rollins, Eggert notes how impressed she was by the first-years. “Several students really showcased their ability—even at this early stage of their college careers—to inject personality, anecdotes, and personal experience into the blogs in an organic way that made sense for our audience,” she says.

In conjunction with gaining professional writing experience, partnering with Barnie’s put the students right in the heart of Winter Park.

“Getting the first-year students out beyond the bounds of campus and the classroom eases their transition to college and immediately allows them to form relationships in the community,” says Russell. “The idea that Rollins is high touch and intimate in a metropolitan area is a key aspect of this kind of project.”

The chance for an undergrad to produce real work for a professional client is uniquely Rollins. In this case, it allowed the students to glimpse what a day in the life of a professional writer could look like—which is often spent at the corner table in a local coffee shop where, at any moment, creativity could strike.

The opportunity to partner with cool companies is just one of the reasons Orlando is the ideal place to go to college. Explore 49 more reasons Tars love Winter Park and Orlando and schedule a visit to come experience it for yourself.

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