What is Common Grounds?

Our Mission

Common Grounds provides a place at EMU where:

  • relationships develop in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere
  • talents, beliefs and ideas can be safely expressed
  • a variety of food and drinks are offered
  • a wide range of engaging events occur
  • operations are financially responsible and environmentally sustainable
  • students gain valuable skills and experience in leadership and service

Our Vision

Common Grounds will serve as the premiere place on campus to come together to encourage dialogue, develop relationships, build community and support learning within EMU, extending out to the world beyond.

A little history…

In December 2001, EMU received a grant from the Lilly Foundation. In EMU’s proposal, a coffeehouse was visualized as a place where students, faculty and staff could come together to comfortably and safely dialogue about meaningful topics.

The Lilly and University Accord Directors, along with SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise), took an abandoned area next to the old gym and transformed it into a coffeehouse. “Common Grounds Coffeehouse” was the name chosen from a campus-wide vote, and the spirit of that name has always shaped the way it has been an open and inclusive place for all. The grand opening was December 4, 2002, with the doors opening permanently in January 2003.

Through the years, Common Grounds has evolved to better serve the interests and needs of the campus community. Changes in student leadership, menu, services, equipment, furniture and artwork have all contributed to the feel of the space. For many, our atmosphere has always had the unmistakable feel of home.

In 2005, a renovation headed by student manager, Ben Beitzel, completely remodeled and upgraded the kitchen and counter area. Also in 2005, oversight for Common Grounds was shifted to the Division of Student Life, demonstrating just how invaluable it had become in only 2 short years. Complete financial responsibility shifted to Student Life with the end of the Lilly Grant in 2009. In 2010, as part of the long-awaited “Phase II Commons Renovation”, Common Grounds saw its overall space increase. This renovation notably included a new floor, a new office, a stage, better lighting, and heat/air conditioning.

The people

From the first day, Common Grounds has always had EMU students in key operations and leadership roles. It is the staff who bring the space to life, with their warmth, energy and care. Common Grounds has 5 student managers who serve in a leadership capacity, overseeing all services and functions for the facility. In addition, 15 students run the daily operations as barista.

The last important part of Common Grounds is you—thank you for being a part of what makes us shine. We hope you’ll come in and stay a while.

For general inquiries and information about Common Grounds contact: Rachel Roth Sawatzky at

Common Grounds is located on the first floor of the University Commons, next to the Student Art Gallery and the Lee Eshleman Studio Theater. (See Campus Map)