When students first come to Drew, they often learn that there are countless secret and special places around campus. One place that many students have been seeking for years is the secret cafe. For many undergraduate students, this gem has gone unfound. For graduate students, however, visiting the Cyber Cafe is a pleasant Thursday morning ritual.
To unveil the largely unknown location, the Cyber Cafe is in the basement of Seminary Hall and is run by two students in Drew’s Theological School: Caleb Cripe (‘24) and Jesse Dicken (‘22). These two students took it upon themselves to revive the cafe after its downfall during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cyber Cafe earned its name because it was a hub for printing and Wi-Fi for graduate students prior to the pandemic. The basement of Seminary Hall has incredible Wi-Fi, and graduate students used it to their advantage. The cafe also provided free coffee all day on Thursdays as a way to rejuvenate students while they printed papers and worked on assignments throughout the semester.
After returning to campus post-pandemic, Dicken noticed the remnants of the cafe. In the middle of 2021, he took it upon himself to earn funding for the cafe, and with Cripe, the two of them made an effort to revive the Cyber Cafe.
“We wanted to facilitate a space where people could still come and hang out, get free coffee, study, that sort of thing,” Cripe said when asked why they wanted to rebuild the space.
Not only have the two created an inviting space for undergraduate students, graduate students and professors to mingle, as they hoped to do, they also offer delicious coffee in the cafe that is fair trade.
Cripe emphasized that in the coffee industry, countless farms use cheap labor and exploit their workers in order to produce cheap coffee. Dicken and Cripe wanted to avoid supporting companies who follow this practice in an effort to better align with the views of the Theological school.
“We try to, in some of our views and values at the Theological school, find both sustainable ways, so we don’t offer single use cups, we offer mugs… and then we also seek to find fair trade coffee that is good quality coffee as well as the countries and locations that the coffee is coming from are both sustainable and fair,” said Cripe.
Despite the struggle to bounce back after the pandemic, Dicken and Cripe noted that many unexpected positives came out of reopening the cafe.
“I didn’t expect so many people to be appreciative of it,” Dicken said. “Like people that never came would tell me, ‘Hey, so glad you’re doing that.’ I didn’t have any other expectations of it other than I just wanted to see what would happen.” It wasn’t until they started to receive positive feedback that Dicken and Cripe really wanted to make the Cyber Cafe something that would last at Drew.
The two students attributed their challenges in this endeavor to the limited amount of materials they have to make the coffee, as well as the cafe’s location, which is fairly tucked away with only one window that provides lighting. Cripe plans to make the atmosphere more lively by decorating the cafe with plants and greenery.
To put it simply, for Cripe and Dicken, “The goal is to have a sense of community,” and to bridge the gap between students in the graduate school, who are often caught up in studying rather than socializing. It is clear that they have already begun to fulfill their goal. Several undergraduate students and countless graduate students and professors frequent the cafe every Thursday and use it as an opportunity to decompress, talk with friends, including Cripe and Dicken, and get their dose of caffeine for the day.
The Cyber Cafe is open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the basement of Seminary Hall. Free coffee and tea are provided and all are encouraged to come stop by for a beverage, some Wi-Fi and a good time. Cripe and Dicken also accept donations, so show some gratitude for all of their hard work by dropping some change in their donation jar.
Feature image courtesy of Nicole Sydor. Jesse Dicken (’22) left, Caleb Cripe (’24) right.