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Volunteers cook and serve free pancakes to students during finals week.

Late Night Cafe provides relief for students during finals week

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Media Contact: Jordan Bishop | Editor, Department of Brand Management | 405-744-9782 |

The return of an Oklahoma State University tradition spanning more than 30 years puts a sweet spin on a highly stressful time of the year for students. 

Late Night Cafe gives OSU faculty and staff the opportunity to support students by serving free pancakes, toppings and beverages during finals week.

The biannual tradition was started around 1984 by Marie Basler, former coordinator of non-traditional student services. The event originated with students paying out of pocket for a full breakfast complete with eggs and bacon. Over time, it has evolved to become free of charge and takes place late at night while students are burning the midnight oil.

This fall semester, Late Night Cafe took place from 10 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 12 and 13 at Passport in the Student Union Food Court. The Student Union Activities Board sponsors the event in collaboration with OSU faculty and staff volunteers as well as University Dining Services.

“I feel like staff just want to find the most appropriate way to best support our students, particularly during a high-stress time of the semester,” said Julian Thomason, SUAB general coordinator. “Providing free food for students feels like the right fit because we're able to take care of those basic needs while they're focusing on what they need to focus on.”

Volunteers for the event take care of cooking and serving pancakes, refilling toppings and pancake batter, and providing ice and cups for beverages.

On average, the event serves around 1,000 students a night. Each student receives three pancakes but can come through the line as many times as they want, as long as they take the time to wait in line.

“It is amazing how we hear stories from alumni who have the fondest memories of Late Night Cafe,” said Debbie Shotwell, Student Union marketing manager. “Each semester is a unique experience, but most of all, I think students love the fellowship. They enjoy taking the time out from studying and just being silly with friends. Nothing beats laughter and free food.”

Special guests ranging from the university president and other administrators to OSU coaches can be found attending Late Night Cafe. This year, Doug Hallenbeck, vice president of Student Affairs, and Aleigha Mariott, director of Student Support & Conduct, along with President Kayse Shrum were among a few of the friendly faces showing their support for students.

“We hope that students will get their bellies full and know that they've got a really big team of staff members that are supporting them and cheering them on during a stressful time in their academic careers,” Thomason said.

“We also just hope that the event provides a sense of community for them at the end of the semester. Whether they're celebrating their last final with friends or collectively struggling through studying with other students, we’re hoping that this can be a space where they can either bring their community with them or find a new community and people to connect with.”

The event has since expanded to also take place during welcome week at the beginning of the academic year. For those who missed out on this year’s Late Night Cafe, just know that the event will be back next semester and many more to come.

“We recognize that we would not be here without our students,” Shotwell said. “Finals week is a hectic and stressful time for them, and we want them to know we are here for them to provide some relief and hopefully build on the memories they are making during their time at OSU. 

“Ultimately, we want students to tell their children about the late nights they spent in the Student Union and share with them what makes our university so unique and special.”

Story By: Hadley DeJarnette |

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