Barnum serves cus­tomers at Penny’s. Regan Meyer | Col­legian.

Walk into Benzing on any given night and you just might find House Director Emily Barnum talking and laughing with a few of her res­i­dents, or you might find her washing her hands after dumpster diving to find a student’s wallet. Both are likely cir­cum­stances.  

Barnum is also manager of the new coffee shop, Penny’s. Barnum grad­uated last May with a Bachelor of Arts in Greek. She also was Head Res­ident Assistant of both Olds and Mauck during her time as a student.

“I just kind of knew that’s what I needed to do, so I did it. I didn’t even know why I needed to do it. Then I started doing it, and I thought this is the most mean­ingful thing I have ever done.”

Barnum worked and formed rela­tion­ships with many stu­dents on campus through her RA posi­tions.

“Working as an RA, I got to know a lot of people,” Barnum said. “That’s been really helpful, because res­i­dence life is fun­da­men­tally, besides keeping the building and rules, rela­tionship building. I think through being an RA in pre­vious years, I built good rela­tion­ships with people I work with now.”

Barnum said one of her favorite things about being a house director is her own avail­ability.

“While I was a student, I always wanted to be available for people, espe­cially as an RA,” Barnum said. “You want to be there for people all the time, but then you have papers and classes and school always hanging over you. It’s been really refreshing to be available pretty much 24/7.”

Nev­er­theless, during Barnum’s time as an RA, her res­i­dents knew they could come to her with any­thing they needed. Junior Annie Ingham was a freshman when Barnum was Head RA of Olds.

“I would always look at the RA cal­endar to see if she was sitting desk,” Ingham said. “There’s a water bottle filling station by the RA desk. I would go and fill my water and see if she was talking to  someone. If she was talking to someone, I would go take it back to my room.”

Ingham would wait a few minutes, dump out her water, go back to the front of olds, and see if Barnum was still engaged in con­ver­sation.

“I just really liked talking about her day and hearing about her life,” Ingham said. “It gave me a lot of peace and comfort.”

Ingham said the way Barnum con­ducts herself is why she felt drawn to it in the first place.

“She is just really open and under­standing,” Ingham said. “She’s very wise. It’s really evident in the way that she carries herself. She’s always open to receiving people and open to lis­tening. People just need that. Also her rela­tionship with God, that just centers every­thing, tran­scends every­thing, and impacts every­thing.”

Perri Rose Force ‘17, who runs the The Grotto, the on-campus Catholic min­istry center, said she’s gotten to know Barnum this year. While she never knew Barnum as a student, the two have become friends quickly.

“She’s so kind and so gen­erous,” Force said. “One day, she was just like, ‘If you ever need help with Con­vivium, I’d love to help.’ Tim and I had just been talking about how he was going to be coaching and couldn’t be here for Con­viviums. I was just really stressed out about it and she just offered that.”

As manager of Penny’s, Barnum spent a fair amount of time working with Assistant Dean of Woman Rebecca Dell to get it off the ground. With the shop now open, Barnum stocks, does inventory, and trains baristas, among other respon­si­bil­ities.

“I think it’s cool to be able to do some­thing tan­gible,” Barnum said. “Being part of some­thing that’s cre­ative and uses problem-solving and you actually see the results. You actually hand someone a cup of coffee.”

Barnum credits much of Penny’s aes­thetic to Dell, but also said her love of Greek has allowed her to appre­ciate design.

“One of the things I love about Greek is how beau­tiful it is, the lan­guage and the ideas but even coming up with the best font,” Barnum said. “I’m very sen­sitive to what New Tes­tament or text I should have based on the how they have written the Greek letters. Part of Penny’s is what is our aes­thetic and how do we deliver not just good product but how shall we serve it, attention to detail.”

When asked if she’d give a Penny’s drink a Greek name, Barnum said she would name it after Alcib­iades, an Athenian statesman who counted Socrates among his enemies.

“He’s not the most boring char­acter ever,” Barnum said. “It’d probably be a little edgy. We’d put a little chile pepper in there and a little bit of sweet.”

Overall, Barnum said she wants people to come and feel at home at Penny’s.

“It’s beau­tiful and unique and refreshing,” Barnum said. “It’s a great place with great product, but most impor­tantly, great people. We’re building campus com­munity one cup at a time. We really want people to come and slow down and enjoy some­thing good.”

Man­aging Penny’s and Benzing takes a good amount of time. It’s been a growing expe­rience for Barnum, but she said wouldn’t change a thing.

“I’m thankful for it,” Barnum said. “I think it’s really taught me to keep an open hand and kind of take what comes. When you run into people and they’re not okay or there’s a problem, I’m learning to roll with it and see it as an oppor­tunity to love someone and to grow.”