Innovation Hubs

Sacred Heart University and Verizon Launch iHub at West Campus

FAIRFIELD, CT – Innovation has moved into its own space at Sacred Heart University’s (SHU) West Campus.

University administrators, faculty, community leaders, politicians, corporate representatives, and entrepreneurs gathered in mid-October to celebrate the launch of SHU’s new innovation space iHub, a joint venture with Verizon. The 8,000-square-foot space offers hot desks, offices, conference rooms and amenities managed by a full-time community manager.

Sacred Heart University iHub

The iHub is a center devoted to a new kind of student-faculty-business alliance. It is a unique environment where students, corporations, small businesses, and faculty can work together to fuel creativity and innovation. Businesses can collaborate with students and faculty through internships, team projects and other experiential learning programs. This collaboration will help students develop the essential problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are integral to their success.

“The iHub is part of the innovation ecosystem that we are building at our West Campus,” says Rupendra Paliwal, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Sacred Heart University. “Companies and entrepreneurs that become members of iHub will have access to our faculty experts, student talents and state-of-the-art labs and facilities from wide-ranging disciplines to help them in various facets of business. Students will have an immersive learning experience with real projects right here on the campus. The iHub will further support a differentiated and distinctive SHU education.”

Five local companies already are making use of the iHub space. Among them is Al Dressler of, a forensic lab. “We were the first to sign up, with the aim of improving our marketing and networking with people that can help our technology. We are making connections and have the ability to hire interns here,” he said.

The origin of SHU’s iHub dates back to early 2018, according to John Vazquez, Verizon’s SVP, CSCO CPO, global head of supply chain and real estate. Vazquez—a Fairfield resident, SHU alumnus, and trustee on the Board of Visitors—wondered how Verizon could expand its 5G labs locally. He turned to SHU President John Petillo. “John said ‘yes’ before I finished my sentence when we first spoke of this,” Vazquez said. Petillo remarks, “Folks thought I was hallucinating. We knew it could be done.”

Verizon sought out other forward-looking companies and partnered with Jones Lang LaSalle and InfoSys to build an environment wherein “education and business can work together” to help “build talent for the future” and drive corporate innovation.

Petillo said having Verizon establish its iHub on campus is significant. “Universities and hospitals are strong drivers in communities. My hope is that the fruit harvested here will stay in the community,” he says.

Sacred Heart University iHub

State Sen. Tony Hwang, who was present for the iHub launch, said the collaboration between Verizon and SHU is exceptional. “That we are in the same standing as Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Cambridge is a testament to the belief that Sacred Heart and Connecticut will be an important innovation hub. It’s a huge compliment to Sacred Heart that Verizon has decided to locate their facility here,” says Hwang, whose district includes Fairfield. “It’s all about jobs and business growth and creating innovations to survive and thrive in a dynamically changing economic ecosystem.”

State Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield lauded the new iHub. “This is another example of Sacred Heart’s innovative approach and stance as a strong community partner that will serve us well,” she says.

Mark Barnhart, Fairfield’s economic development director, was impressed with what he saw at the launch. “This is a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want this in their community?” he says. “It’s going to grow and evolve over time. Universities need to be invested in this space.”

About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, CT, campus. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg, and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the university’s eight colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance, and theater.