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Features Agora provides neighborly atmosphere

Agora provides neighborly atmosphere

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AgoraWhat place can one find on The University of Southern Mississippi’s campus that offers Italian chicken paninis and beef taco salads?

The Agora in the International Center offers not only exotic and fresh foods, but also includes an inviting atmosphere of comfort and hospitality.

 It consists of restaurants Tortilla Fresca and Einstein Bros Bagels. Tortilla Fresca brings a Latin taste to students with a prepared array of Mexican cuisine while Einstein Bros Bagels offers deluxe bagels, mochas and sandwiches. The Agora has provided many students a safe-haven to relax, eat, study or just hang out. The restaurant/study area on the first floor of the International Center is where students of different cultures, backgrounds and countries often visit.

“It’s nice to see different people of different cultures,” said Lizzy Williams, an Agora supervisor. The Agora is a place like no other on campus because of its staff-student connections. “The students that come in make my day, and if they’re having a bad day, I make their day,” Williams said. 

The environment is a fun one that ensures a constantly interesting atmosphere. “We’re like a family that has their ups and downs, but everyone does their part,” said Shanta Speights, an Agora cashier.

 After  three  years of experience, Agora server and cashier Sandra Robinson has learned more than just proper food preparation. “My goals here are influencing others and learning what I can learn to take me further on in life as far as managing people and students,” Robinson said. “I love interacting with the customers along with the staff.” 

The Agora staff has an advantage over most outside restaurants in that it gets the opportunity to interact with college students of various personalities and goals. 

“I really enjoy working with the kids that come from the International Center. It’s a lot of fun,” Robinson said. 

When the staff is surrounded by a diverse community, they form connections and relationships with customers. “It’s a home away from home in a sense. We really enjoy dealing with the students that come in and we develop personal relationships. Some of them even call me mom,” Robinson said.

 The spirited environment allows for comfortable interaction between the staff and students. “It’s very (lively) here. We mess with the students a lot and they always come in and say ‘Hey, Miss Lizzy’ or ‘Hey, Miss Shanta,’” Williams said. Many say that the Agora deserves more recognition due to its excellent customer service and easy-going atmosphere. “We got an A and a trophy for being the best place to eat on campus,” Williams said. 

Senior speech pathology major Haley Sims said the Agora is her favorite place and visits daily. “I know the (Fresh) has a greater selection, but I come in here and I know exactly what I want and I get what I want,” Sims said. 

The staff creates a loving and calm environment where the students can feel as if they are a part of a family. “I know all of them. They’re so sweet from both sides,” Sims said of the staff from Einstein Bros and Tortilla Fresca. The staff at the Agora is mainly women, who tend to take on a nurturing role to the students. 

“In Seymour’s, there are a lot of younger people working there so the atmosphere and their vibe is different. They’re just trying to do their job and go home,” Sims said. 

She said the Agora staff not only remembers one’s order, but one’s name. “They always know what I want. They approach me by name,” Sims said. 

The Agora stands out as a whole, but the individuals who serve students, guests and faculty daily are  more of highlight to the campus. Their dedication to the place and to the university is beyond the public’s perception.

“Valerie Pierre holds the Agora together, because she preps for both sides, so if she’s out, we wouldn’t know what to do,” Williams said. “She always does what the managers tell her to do. She’s here bright and early at 6 a.m. to prep.” 

Working at the Agora for six years, Lizzy Williams has had her ups and downs. “When I’m down and the students see me down, they say that God’s got it and they uplift me,” Williams said. “They always ask me what’s wrong and tell me to hold on and continue. They say don’t give up, because sometimes they might try to give up and I have to tell them to not give up.” 

Seymour’s might be the most visited or popular place to eat because of Chick-fil-A and Subway, but people who reside on campus, especially those in the Village, come to the Agora.

 “I’d rather eat at the Agora than Seymour’s, because they have a better environment. They care a little bit more about your needs,” said Udarika Ross, a senior speech pathology major. “I’m here almost everyday. Coming to the Agora, you feel the love and we feel like family. It’s more of a chill atmosphere.”

Regular customers are bound to be remembered by the caring staff of the Agora. “I’m horrible with names, but if they walked in here its nothing but love and they show love too,” Robinson said. “I just know a lot of faces.” 

Whether students are there to pick up something tasty to eat, especially with the daily deals at Einstein Bros Bagels or Tortilla Fresca, or are looking to study in a serene environment, the Agora is open weekdays to ensure customers receive the best treatment.

Afnan Beauti
Nan is a chemistry major, Luckyday Scholar, and Honors College student at USM. She enjoys writing, exercising, and speaking life to her peers and family.

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