Iona University Students Utilize Virtual Reality to Support New Rochelle’s Business and Residential Growth

Iona Students Learn Outside The Lines

Members of the WIN project.

Representatives from New Rochelle, Iona and the Business Council of Westchester with students that will work with the city on a new virtual reality project. Photo courtesy of the BCW.

New Rochelle, N.Y. — As New Rochelle continues to transform, students from Iona University’s Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation have teamed up to explore how virtual reality can help support the city’s business and residential growth.

Thanks to the Westchester Innovation Network’s City Labs initiative, students in Iona’s “Introduction to Ideation and Design Thinking” class will spend the next six weeks engaging with New Rochelle stakeholders and business owners to brainstorm potential new uses for NRVR, a virtual reality tool created by New Rochelle to help residents experience new public spaces in the rapidly transforming city.

The Westchester Innovation Network (WIN) matched the Iona students with New Rochelle as part of the Business Council of Westchester’s focus on making Westchester County more attractive to startups and new technology.

“We are focusing on innovation as the foundation for economic development,” said Dr. Marsha Gordon, the BCW’s president and CEO. “WIN’s City Labs initiative has already delivered solutions for Mount Vernon and Yonkers, and we are eager to see what the students develop for New Rochelle.”

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson welcomed the collaboration with Iona students because of emerging opportunities posed by the arrival of new residents.

“This is a marketplace for goods and services that will be a stimulus for a healthier business climate in our city and we want to make sure that we position ourselves to take full advantage of those opportunities,” Bramson told the students.

NRVR uses 3D goggles to help residents visualize projects. City officials are using NRVR to design a linear park along Memorial Highway that links downtown with Lincoln Avenue.

“With virtual reality, we’re bridging that gap between somebody telling you what the project is and what the project actually is going to be,” said Jorge Ventura, New Rochelle’s director of economic development.

Students in Iona’s design thinking class study problem solving by prioritizing consumers’—or the public’s—needs. The practice relies on observing people’s interaction with environments.

Rob Kissner, Iona’s GaelVentures program manager at the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, called the use of NRVR to design projects an opportunity to apply classroom studies in the real world.

“What we’re learning is understanding our users first before we define a solution,” said Kissner. “This project will incorporate this incredible stakeholder engagement tool to facilitate people to open their businesses in New Rochelle, hire local and shop local.”

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of over 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, a prestigious recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona University also recently launched a new, fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona University and NewYork-Presbyterian announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, to be principally located on the University’s new campus in Bronxville, N.Y. Supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian, the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences offers a new vision for collaborative health care education, modern workforce development, and community care. On July 1, 2022, Iona officially changed its status from College to University, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.