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Coffee Equity Lab

We are currently accepting applications for Mapping the Coffee System: Racial Inequity in the US Coffee Industry. To learn more and apply, click here. Deadline to apply: Wed., Jan. 27 @ 5pm CT.

The Coffee Equity Lab envisions a coffee industry where justice, inclusion, and equity are paramount and where business decisions—both public and private, for-profit and non-profit—are prioritized by their potential to foster racial equity and sector-wide sustainability.

The lab offers undergraduate and graduate students experiential learning opportunities that challenge them to understand and engage with the pressing issues shaping our world–racial justice, climate change, and more–through the lens of the global coffee sector. The lab also collaborates with industry partners on projects that advance progress towards equity, justice, and sustainability in the sector.

The Lab builds on a 15-year legacy of coffee research at Vanderbilt University through the Institute of Coffee Studies, and it is housed at the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt University’s 13,000 square foot on-campus center for innovation. To date, on-campus partners include the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Office of Immersion Research, and the Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies.

Check out the video below for more about the motivation for the Coffee Equity Lab


Spring 2021: What’s Happening

Coffee Track at the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures Annual Summit

The Turner Family Center for Social Ventures Annual Summit gathers students, entrepreneurs, investors, educators, accelerators, policymakers, and other startup champions to meet, collaborate, and share ideas to co-create and deepen collaboration. At this year’s Summit, the coffee track will feature talks on coffee sustainability, racial justice, careers in coffee, and emerging technologies. The event will occur on Friday, February 19. Registration details and speaker line-up coming soon.

Mapping the Coffee System

This spring, Vanderbilt University students are conducting systems thinking research projects on topics including the effects of climate change on coffee producer livelihoods, racial inequity in the U.S. coffee industry, and inequities in the coffee value creation process. Students will present their research at the Vanderbilt University Map the System Competition in April 2021, competing for a chance to advance to the Global Finals hosted by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University. VU’s Map the System Competition is currently scheduled for Thursday, April 15. Stay tuned for more information.

Designing for Coffee Equity

A group of students are using human-centered design to identify and develop opportunities that may advance ethical coffee storytelling and consumer knowledge about the opportunities and challenges of coffee sustainability. To begin this journey, students are focusing on developing and testing opportunities here in the Vanderbilt and broader Nashville communities.

How to Make Almost Anything & Make it Matter: Coffee

As part of Dr. Kevin Galloway’s for-credit course, “How to make almost anything and make it matter,” two teams of VU undergraduate students will be working with a coffee-focused non-profit client to develop innovations in coffee processing hardware. These innovations will help enable small coffee farmers to reliably assess the quality and characteristics of their coffees. With this knowledge, coffee farmers will then be able to make informed decisions about to whom, and at what price, they’ll sell their coffee.

Past Events: Recordings


  • Fall 2020 – Third Wave Coffee, Maya Farmers, and the Creation of Value
    Presented by: Dr. Ted Fischer
    Watch Recording
  • Fall 2020 – On Being Black in Coffee
    Presented by: Alicia Adams & Phyllis Johnson
    Watch Recording
  • Fall 2020 – Coffee’s Interdisciplinary Intersections
    Presented by: Dr. Elizabeth Meadows, Dr. Peter Martin, Dr. Tiffany Patterson, Dr. Amanda Little, Dr. Holly Tucker
    Watch Recording

On-Campus Partners



Interested in Partnership? 

Are you a Vanderbilt faculty or center interested in partnering with the Coffee Equity Lab on a specific coffee-focused research or design project or for-credit course? Or, are you coffee industry professional, organization, or business interested in partnering with the Coffee Equity Lab to advance equity and sustainability in the sector? Contact to learn more about partnership opportunities.