Associate Professor Connects with Students Through Coffee and Conversation

 In Public Administration

If you wander into a coffee shop on campus, don’t be surprised to find Associate Professor Staci Zavattaro there, chatting with a group of students.

Each month during the fall and spring semesters, Zavattaro hosts Coffee with a Professor, a relaxed, casual meet-up where students can chat, ask questions and get to know each other, and a faulty member, outside of the classroom.

Zavattaro developed Coffee with a Professor earlier this year to give students a better chance to meet with her. Knowing that her office hours weren’t convenient for some students – and a little intimidating to others – she decided to bring herself to the students.

“For me, it takes the pressure off the students and puts it on me. It switches the power dynamic,” she said. “I am going to spaces where they are rather than vice versa. It’s been a lot of fun to just chat with students about topics interesting to them.”

Although each meeting has a certain topic, such as going to grad school or settling back into the academic year, students are welcome to bring up other topics or ask any questions that come to mind. Taryn Rutkovitz, a Master of Public Administration student, said that she was extremely excited about this event, which gave her the chance not only to ask questions, but to answer them as well.

“I had an awesome experience as I was able to ask [Zavattaro] some questions that I had about networking, joining professional associations, and future classes,” Rutkovitz said. “This also allowed me a chance to answer questions and talk to fellow students about some of my experiences in the MPA program, as well as my career path, and offer some guidance for their educational journey.”

Zavattaro said that the goal of Coffee with a Professor is to let students know that faculty are there to help and support them. She hopes that this event continues to grow, but for now she’s content to grab a cup of joe with any student who just wants to talk.

“For me, taking an hour or so to have coffee with students is not a burden, it’s indeed a pleasure,” Zavattaro said. “I see the students laughing, having fun, asking questions about what’s on their mind. That’s the best joy I get – connecting with students beyond the classroom.”

The next Coffee with a Professor will be at the Dunkin Donuts at Knights Plaza, Sept. 13, from 12-1 p.m. All students are welcome to attend. For more info, contact Staci.Zavattaro@ucf.edu.

Written by Marisa Ramiccio

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