Stanford Names Two Iona Students as University Innovation Fellows

Prestigious global program equips students to be agents of change on campus


Lendynette Pacheco-Jorge, Eileen Cordero, Kevin Mejia and Christoph Winkler

From Left: Lendynette Pacheco-Jorge, assistant director of the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Eileen Cordero ’25, Kevin Mejia ’23 and Christoph Winkler, founding program director of the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

New Rochelle, N.Y. – The Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation recently had the pleasure of inducting two Iona students into the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) Program from Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( This distinguished program supports students on their journey to becoming agents of change at their schools.

This year’s Fellows:

  • Kevin Mejia ’23, Marketing & Entrepreneurship
  • Eileen Cordero ’25, Marketing & Entrepreneurship 

For five consecutive years, Iona students have been chosen to participate in this program, where they can connect with a global community and attain the attitudes, skills and knowledge to navigate a complex world.

In total, this program has trained 2,399 students from 270 schools around the world. Fellows range from undergraduate to Ph.D. students, with a wide variety of majors. They are nominated by faculty and administrators and selected through an application process. Once selected, they begin a six-week training.

“Our UIF cohorts are catalysts for impactful change on our campus,” said Dr. Christoph Winkler, endowed professor and founding program director. “By applying design thinking methodology, they engage in creative problem solving with a variety of campus stakeholders to support student learning and success for current and future Iona students.”

Throughout the training, candidates will conduct in-depth analyses of their campus ecosystems and will prepare tools and resources to implement change. Using their knowledge, they will develop distinct projects that address their campus’ needs.

This year, Fellows discovered that students’ emotional well-being is affected by low engagement with campus events. In turn, this causes students to be less exposed to opportunities, which increases the gap between theoretical and practical learning. However, implementing an efficient system to generate networks, resources and partnerships is extremely time consuming and expensive. Luckily, Iona already has the GaelsConnect Program, which the students wish to leverage to incorporate their solution of integrating peer collaboration into a larger mentoring program.

“The weight of being a college student, along with graduation getting closer each day, often made me feel I had to face the world by myself. Undergoing the University Innovation Fellows training opened my eyes to the vast number of people and tools at my disposal to help me become successful,” said Mejia. “Having faculty in positions of power who want to see me grow and succeed establishes a strong confidence within myself to be a transformative innovator and change maker in this planet.”

The UIF 2022 cohort is striving towards helping Iona students apply and combine education and professional environments through collaboration with alumni and students who are missing the link between learning and application.

“UIF taught me to be curious and helped me understand and adapt to different learning techniques,” said Cordero. “It also enlightened me on what it means to be an agent of change. Working with my partner, we learned the true definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur and utilizing our resources around us. A wise saying that stuck with me was, ‘You want to have butterflies; you want them flying in the same direction when it comes to realizing your potential.’” 

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 more than 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 students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just five percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.