Nextech sets up new location in parking garage vacancy. Photo by Julian Cirnigliaro.
KATIE FREEMAN | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
The vacancy in the Butler University parking garage left by Pita Pit in 2017 has been filled by Nextech, a local non-profit organization. There was no exact “opening day” for the location, but it began operation in January 2020.
Nextech’s mission is to create equitable access to computer science curriculum and experiences for all K-12 Indiana students. The organization introduces computer skills to students as young as kindergarteners, and builds those skills through high school. Additionally, Nextech works to break down the stereotypes surrounding the tech industry and introduce students to computer-related job opportunities available in Marion County and surrounding areas.
Karen Jung, Nextech founder and president, said the company decided to move to Butler’s campus because the location allowed for opportunity and collaboration. Nextech signed the lease in September 2019.
“We had been introduced to various faculty members of Butler that had a strong passion for our programming and things that we were doing in the community, typically with students, so that began some opportunities to work together,” Jung said.
This isn’t Nextech’s first time on campus, either — Nextech hosted a tech-themed summer day camp at Butler this past summer.
Butler’s vice president of finance and administration Bruce Arick said when Nextech saw the Pita Pit vacancy last fall, they reached out to the university about its availability in Fall 2019.
“I think one of the things that they liked was certainly the campus,” Arick said. “And, the fact that we do have classrooms and other things that as they needed, they could have access to those at reasonable rates versus having to build out a space that included all of that.”
Some students might have been expecting a new restaurant to take the place of Pita Pit, but Arick said that the university was not looking for any specific kind of vendor or company to fill the Pita Pit vacancy.
“Had it been food, that would have been fine if it would have been a good complement to what else we have on campus,” Arick said. “But, it ended up working out that way [with Nextech].”
Arick said the university had previously attempted to make agreements with several food vendors, but they were not able to come to terms with which both the university and vendor were comfortable.
Sophomore finance major Mamie Hawks said she didn’t mind that Pita Pit wasn’t replaced with a new restaurant.
“I think that even though it’s not a food place, the kids on Butler’s campus have already gotten used to not having a lot of food options,” Hawks said. “Like, they have to go to Broad Ripple and I think that it’s better to have something there that can better the community and the kids around Butler rather than it being a food place.”
However, Gina Lambert, a sophomore entrepreneurship and innovation major, would have appreciated another dining option on campus instead.
“I think that’s a great company and what they’re doing is good,” Lambert said. “But there’s 5,000 students that only have access to Starbucks and a monopoly of Bon Appetit stuff, so I think it’s unfair that students at say, Ball State have great food options such as Chick-Fil-A when all we have are a couple of options for the same price.”
Nextech was launched in 2015 after Jung partnered with entrepreneur Scott Dorsey to attempt to narrow the gap between the number of computer-science related opportunities and the amount of students pursuing them in Indiana.
The company runs programs for high school students in Marion County that come from socio-economic and ethnically underrepresented populations. Jung said that the new facility will offer new resources to these students.
“Through just the various access to the different colleges of Butler, and the school of education and their commitment to teacher development, that aligns very strongly with our focus on preparing computer science teachers,” Jung said.
Nextech does not currently have any concrete plans for how they might collaborate with Butler, but Jung said they hope to connect high school students to Butler as a post-secondary option and help prepare education majors with computer science skills.
Nextech plans on holding an open house in the near future for all Butler students and faculty to attend.