Friday, September 10, 2010

Serving More than Coffee

Over the past few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time in committee meetings discussing what "student success" might mean for YSU. Part of the committee's definition of "student success" is the unlovely phrase, "productive post-collegiate performance." For many of those we've talked with in focus groups, that has a simple meaning: a job.

Jacob Harver offers a different model. He doesn't just have a job. He's an entrepreneur, founder of the Lemon Grove Cafe downtown. But in my book he counts as a good example of "productive post-collegiate performance" because he's doing business in a way that reflects the things he learned in History, Sociology, and other courses -- lessons that have less to do with how to run a business and more to do with how society works. He's a great reminder of the productive value of a liberal arts degree and of why it matters that so many YSU faculty make understanding Youngstown part of the curriculum.

Talking with Jacob Harver is always fun, in part just because he's so enthusiastic about almost everything he does. He believes in downtown, but even more important, he believes in the power of people, the arts, and organizing. What I admire most about his work in creating The Lemon Grove isn't just that it's a good addition to the downtown entertainment district, but that Jake has such a strong sense of using it as a venue for what we might think of as purposeful entertainment. Lemon Grove events support local artists, both visual and musical, but the cafe also sponsors film screenings, discussions, and meetings. And that happens not only formally, at scheduled events, but also informally. It's become my favorite place for small meetings, and every time I'm there I see other tables where people are not just sharing a meal but also figuring out how to solve a problem.

Jake offers a great answer to the perennial question facing students who major in history or English: what are you going to do with that?  

1 comment:

lemon said...

thank you so much for the kind words! It was a great honor to be on the show.