Spotlight on Seniors: Abby Pugh ’23 and Liz Messinger ’23

By Katie Hanson ’25

Composite image of Abby Pugh '23 and Liz Messinger '23

When Abby Pugh ’23 and Liz Messinger ’23 talk about The Motley Coffeehouse, they mention the community it was founded on and continues to cultivate. Open every day, the student-run business draws students from all 7Cs, faculty, and nearby residents.

“The Motley community is loud, loving, and complex,” says Pugh, who serves as the Motley’s executive manager. “It’s not just the people who are on staff. It’s also the people who are there every day; it’s the customers whose orders I know because they always come during my shift, and the people who regularly come who don’t go to Scripps.”

Pugh, a dual major in Asian American studies and politics, first joined the Motley staff for this very community. As a first year, they found solace in the constancy and inherent community of the Motley, studying there late at night, sitting on the couches with friends, and trying out different drinks. Last spring, when the Motley re-opened after a pandemic-induced hiatus, Pugh was eager to join the team and carry on this legacy for Scripps students to come.

Messinger, an environmental analysis major, applied to be a Motley facilities manager for the same reasons. She immediately started work as a manager this fall without having served as a barista before. Messinger says that the job, focused on machinery and maintaining the physical space, has challenged her while also demonstrating Scripps’ robust support networks.

“It was overwhelming at first, and I had to really get to know the space,” Messinger says. “The more I got into it, I was like, ‘Okay, I can do this. People are here to help me.’ The facilities and grounds staff have been especially helpful.”

Besides overseeing day-to-day tasks at the Motley, Messinger is assisting with a planned summertime remodel of the coffeehouse. She says the architectural changes will increase the space behind the coffee bar. Other adjustments will include updating furniture and storage space. Working with the design team and administration, Messinger has been able to draw on her academic concentration, sustainability and the built environment, to participate in these plans.

While Pugh’s responsibilities at the Motley do not directly relate to her academics, she is enthusiastic about the change of pace her administrative tasks present. Through processing payroll, holding barista office hours, and leading the sponsorship program, which allocates funding and provides a meeting location to student groups on campus, Pugh is able to recognize the hard work of employees and extend the Motley’s values of social justice and inclusivity.

“I think a big part of the Motley is being a center of student life on campus,” Pugh says. “Being in that space, I feel that we have a certain amount of responsibility to support student groups.”

Pugh notes that the student-run setup of the coffeehouse offers a unique opportunity for student employees to create the campus environment they want to see and apply concepts from their academics.

“The Motley being student-run means that a lot of the things that we talked about in class or with our friends, we can actually put into practice,” they say. “We the students are running the business, paying the invoices, and opening and closing the shop. That means that we’re able to really experiment with what we want the space to mean.”

Underlying the Motley’s ever-evolving role on campus, curated by students, is a constant mission to bring Scripps students together. For Messinger, the Motley acted as her entry point to connecting with Scripps and feeling comfortable on campus.

“My first year, I had trouble putting effort into the Scripps community,” she says. “Eventually, being at the Motley really grounded me here. With everyone bringing in their friends and different interests, it just works really well.”

Messinger and Pugh agree that the Motley is inextricably linked to the community it draws and cultivates.

“I’ll be the first to tell you the Motley is not known for its coffee,” Pugh says. “You go there to eat lunch with your friends or to sit on that green couch or to claim the tables on the stage—you go there for community.”