Westchester Innovation Network Launches New ‘City Labs’ Initiative in White Plains with Iona University

Entrepreneurship, Iona Students Learn Outside The Lines

The WIN Iona group at the BCW in White Plains.

The Business Council of Westchester’s Westchester Innovation Network (WIN) has launched a new City Labs project with the City of White Plains and Iona University to understand workforce development opportunities in Westchester and leverage the White Plains Education and Training Center to support workforce growth.

Students from Iona University’s Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation will spend the next four weeks working on ways to revitalize a job training program located in White Plains’ Brookfield Commons (formerly the site of Winbrook houses), a housing community with affordable housing units in downtown White Plains. Winbrook Houses previously held job training classes on site, including cooking, cybersecurity, phlebotomy, and more.

White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach said a vibrant workforce training program will be a welcome part of the robust business community in the city, which includes healthcare, retail, dining and construction.

“I feel very strongly that this building should have a job training site,” said Mayor Roach, adding that he thinks the WIN program is an excellent fit for coming up with new ideas about how to revitalize the program and finding ways to implement them.

Rob Kissner, Iona’s GaelVentures program manager at the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, led the other CityLabs projects and is excited for the new project in White Plains.

“This is a unique opportunity to take what you’re learning in the classroom – which is effectively a vacuum without the variables that shape the real world – and engage with real stakeholders, and solve real problems,” Kissner told the students.

Dr. Aakash Sapru, assistant professor at the Hynes Institute, said, “We need a human-centered approach to innovation. We have to empathize with individuals and see things from their perspective” in order to accurately define problems and come up with innovative solutions.

“I have seen Iona students come up with fabulous ideas and provide fresh views to so many other cities in Westchester County. I’m looking forward to hearing their great recommendations about workforce development in White Plains,” said Dr. Marsha Gordon, the Business Council of Westchester’s president and CEO.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity here,” said Dr. Christoph Winkler, founding program director of the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Iona University. “We’re adding to a student’s education and also moving towards finding solutions for a real problem.”

WIN’s CityLabs initiative was first launched in 2022. To date, Iona students have completed projects in Peekskill, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Yonkers.

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 six 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.