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Thinking and Drinking

New alumni creations for minds and mirth


All the pleasures of working in a coffee shop, minus the overpriced lattes

Tommy Nicholas (Col '11) and his friend Justin Kauszler read a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that concluded moderate ambient noise around 70 decibels—like the kind you hear in a coffee shop—boosted creativity and stimulated production. "Justin felt that his own life experience confirmed this," Nicholas explains, "which led to our wanting to be able to re-create the coffee shop experience in the office."

They teamed up (along with designer Nicole Horton and project manager Ace Callwood) to create Coffitivity, a free app that serves up an infinite loop of coffee shop chatter. Recorded at Richmond's Harrison Street Coffee Shop, the noise is soft enough so that you don't hear specific conversations, keeping you from getting distracted from your work.

What Nicholas likes best about the project is that it actually has improved people's lives. "There's a teacher who emailed us to tell us that she uses [Coffitivity] to help her students feel less shy about speaking up in discussions," he says. "And that it's really turned things around for her."

To visit the website, go to

College Daze

A board game packed with facts about the University

Robert Shutler (Arch '79, '82) is a passionate UVA alumnus. "As a loyal Hoo will tell you," he says, "we have an unnatural bond with the University. Its extraordinary physical beauty and its rich history are unmatched."

Shutler's fascination with fun facts and eccentricities about UVA led to his developing College Daze, a board game for fellow Hoos. "As far back as I can remember I have enjoyed myth busting and gathering surprising factoids, coincidences, palindromes, mnemonic devices, dying words—you know: useless trivia."

Shutler likes the idea of UVA alumni coming together to play the game. "Creating a retro board game in the digital age was a social decision," he says. "I feel that there are far too few face-to-face interactions. Especially fun ones."

Online proceeds from the game are donated toward restoring the Rotunda (which Shutler's game reminds us is a clever half-scale descendant of the Pantheon in Rome). Visit for more information.

The Mason Shaker

A modern-day twist to a Southern classic

Eric Prum (Col '08) and Josh Williams (Col '08) met on their first day at UVA. It was a fortuitous meeting—they would remain roommates for the next four years and run a business together after graduating.

After Williams' brief stint in Italian culinary school, the friends started a catering company in Charlottesville. "We were using mason jars to infuse bourbons with peaches and we ended up mixing drinks in them routinely," Prum says. Soon, the two designed the Mason Shaker—a cocktail shaker with a jigger in its lid, designed to hold up to four drinks at once. "We wanted to combine our Southern aesthetic with a functional industrial feel," Prum explains.

Williams and Prum eventually moved to Brooklyn, where they formed W&P Design Co. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, they teamed up with West Elm, and their initial batch of shakers sold out within weeks. Prum cites Professor Ken Elzinga's microeconomics class as "one that continues to influence how we are creating and operating our business."