Ceari Robinson and Angel Albright-Sexton
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Student-run cafes add to coffee offerings at Pitt

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Two Pitt Business students are about to get real-life experience in what it takes to find, hire and lead their very own teams.

Saxbys, a coffee company based in Philadelphia, is bringing its experiential learning platform to the University of Pittsburgh this fall. Two cafes — one in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning and a second on the ground floor of Hillman Library — will be completely student run.

Senior Ceari Robinson (pictured above, left) and sophomore Angel Albright-Sexton are the Student Cafe Executive Officers (SCEOs) of the Hillman and Cathedral locations, respectively, for the fall term. They will each manage nearly 40 student employees, along with all aspects of running their cafe, from team development to community outreach to financial reports. Both SCEOs will earn competitive wages, bonus opportunities and a full semester of college credit. 

Robinson, a marketing and Italian major from Pittsburgh, originally transferred from Temple University, where she was a frequent customer of its student-run Saxbys cafes. After meeting company representatives at a Pitt career fair in 2020, Robinson went through four rounds of interviews before she was offered the SCEO position. She said she is eager to begin her role after the opening of both cafes was delayed by the pandemic.

“I was so excited to apply for this job because their cafes have such a unique energy when compared to other chain or boutique coffee shops,” said Robinson. “The teams felt like family, and everyone seemed to be having a good time, even if there was a line coming out of the cafe. I talked to the students that had done the SCEO position, and they all praised the experience for being fun but also prepared me for the hard work and personal growth that they also got out of it.”

Albright-Sexton, a finance and human resources management major from Brownsville, Pennsylvania, said she heard about the role after a Saxbys recruiter reached out to her via LinkedIn.

“The experiential learning platform excited me the most,” she said. “It is right up my alley, so I was excited to pursue it once I learned about the platform.”

Both SCEOs anticipate challenges in bringing the new concept to campus. They will be using skills from their Pitt Business coursework and support from faculty and staff to track purchasing trends, inventory and customer satisfaction on a day-by-day basis. Both Robinson and Albright-Sexton said they feel well equipped for the roles and look forward to meeting their management and leadership goals, including safety and inclusivity.

“My goal for the cafe is to create a safe and successful space,” said Albright-Sexton. “I want to be a leader that is approachable and understanding, while also making sure everything gets done. I want everyone to feel safe coming to me about an issue that may arise.”

Similarly, Robinson hopes to make her cafe one where people want to work and make new friends.

“One of my goals is to create an enjoyable work environment and team member dynamic. I often feel like, as college students, we must sacrifice liking where we work and what we do for four years just to make money, but I want to change that. I want us all to work and respect each other, not because we have to, but because we want to,” she said.

At the end of the day, the new cafes will bring opportunity, connection and tasty coffee to the Pitt community.

“I cannot wait to see all the good that comes out of students that get this position that have the desire to start their own company or like me, who have no idea what they want to do, leave not only with immense professional growth and knowledge, but personal growth, as well,” said Robinson. “This journey is just beginning for all of us though, so to see the people we are now and how we will be after six months is another rewarding aspect of this opportunity I am looking forward to.”

Make your mark

The SCEOs are looking for motivated students to join their teams — apply now for paid part-time positions at all levels with flexible schedules.

— Emily Houser