My name is Jim Tanoos and I’m a Clinical Associate Professor at Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes.
Our students earn bachelor’s degrees from Purdue University through our 2+2 articulation agreement with Vincennes University, in which the 60 credit hours they completed for their associate’s degrees transfer over to Purdue in full.
Recently, we decided that our students should have some additional experience off-campus, so I held classes for our Spring 2021 semester at a new local full-service business incubator on Main St. in Vincennes, Indiana.
The Renovation of the Pantheon to become a Business Incubator:
The Pantheon was recently renovated through a mix of funding sources, including Purdue University’s Davidson School of Chemical Engineering and a grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
The Pantheon is a classic Vaudeville-era theatre built in Renaissance Revival architectural style in 1921.
It was renovated just in time for the start of our Spring 2021 semester. Personally, I am fascinated by 1920’s Vaudeville-era theaters and a proponent of public-private partnerships as an anchor for economic development.
In fact, I have given lectures in class on a seminal public-private partnership, Olympic Village in Munich, Germany (home of the 1972 Olympic games), which jumpstarted the area that now boasts a massive BMW factory that we would tour during pre-pandemic Study Abroad.
The ongoing development of the Pantheon project in my own backyard has been quite relevant to my interests over the past years. Located in a state Jobs Act Opportunity Zone, the Pantheon supports entrepreneurs and private enterprises and helps facilitate start-ups and co-work businesses.
Why Shifting the Classroom to the Pantheon was a Great Decisions?
Our classroom location shift from campus to the Pantheon was a decision that we all are thankful to have made. While VU’s campus is beautiful and wonderfully maintained, it is helpful for the junior and senior students to take a Purdue University class right on the Main St. of a mid-sized town in an environment similar to the workplaces where these students will soon be employed upon graduation.
Most of our students have taken classes on campus for at least 3 years (their two years working on their AS degrees, plus any time taking their Purdue classes on campus in past semesters), so this has been a good change of pace, especially for those who have not only taken classes but also resided on campus throughout their college careers.
Being from another mid-sized Indiana town, Terre Haute, I have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of our own Main St. (Wabash Avenue) and its inherent liveliness. Main St. in Vincennes has a similar dynamic.
Aside from the amazing Italianate and Classical Revival architecture, nearby are some cool vintage shops and, as at many jobs I’ve had over the years, you need to find a parking spot on the street, meaning that students often have to parallel park, which is an important skill to perfect.
The record shop across the street plays music for the passers-by starting at around 10 am, giving a unique vibe to the entire square-block area. The typical planning of lunches, a staple of the workplace experience, becomes more of a thought-out endeavor because of the numerous nearby dining options.
The Infrastructure in the Pantheon Classrooms:
Our classrooms in the Pantheon came equipped with a screen and projector so that students could follow along with lectures, assignments, and other instructions from my laptop, and the wi-fi was great. This was especially important because I recorded lectures and instructions at the beginning of class and posted them for distance students who are taking the course remotely to access when they are able.
The excellent, freshly-brewed coffee was such an enjoyable add-on that students asked for it right off the bat, which is another similarity to the real world.
Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes student Mitch McKibben, who completed his associate’s degree in Computer Networking & Security at VU in 2020, stated, “The Pantheon has a great atmosphere that allows me to focus and learn well.” He went on to say, “In an increasingly online world, co-work spaces like this provide a great way to meet people and interact.”
Why Campuses need more Start-up Incubators like Pantheon:
Start-up incubators like the Pantheon are excellent facilitators, and their efforts and the efforts of so many stakeholders over the past several years certainly facilitated our learning this semester.
Local comedy legend Red Skelton, who got his start performing at the Pantheon before becoming nationally famous in the mid-20th century, was someone who truly benefited from the opportunities provided by the Pantheon.
Similarly, students from this past semester have gained experience and insight in a real-world setting as the Pantheon has hosted us.
While neither Red Skelton and nor these college students fit the mold of the typical start-up venture capitalist or innovative entrepreneur who might be working in the office next door to us at the Pantheon and whom we chat with when refreshing our coffees, co-work incubators can benefit a wide array of patrons and professions.
Our students had the opportunity to experience firsthand the various uses of business incubators and the possibilities they offer upon completion of their degree and in their chosen careers. The Pantheon is such a majestic venue, and it has been great to be part of its new life during our Spring 2021 semester. We are grateful for this valuable experience.