We had a beautiful spring this year. I can’t remember the azaleas and the dogwoods on the campus ever having bloomed with such bright enthusiasm. On May 20th, the Class of 2012 received their diplomas and as always I was struck by the optimism of our graduates, their enthusiasm, as they leave us and go out to encounter the world. I know that we provide them with a solid foundation that will always be with them. We give them our blessing and we send them out to make a difference in the world, because that’s what our mission is all about.
And indeed, more than ever it is the world in all its vast complexity and richness that our graduates will encounter. We are truly “one world” now, to a degree that we have never witnessed before. To be prepared to communicate across boundaries of language and culture is, I believe, an essential skill that we need to develop in our young people. It is the way of the future, and we are committed to doing this well at Fairfield.
Our international study abroad programs are growing in their number and in their sophistication, with more of our students taking advantage of study abroad than ever. Our students appreciate that spending a period immersed in another culture while in the midst of their studies is exactly the kind of eye-opening experience they need in this phase of their life.
Not long after you receive this letter, I will be travelling to Tanzania and Australia to meet with our partners in these countries who support our study abroad programs. While we have maintained a study abroad program in Brisbane for many years, we began offering the opportunity for students to study in Tanzania in the spring of 2011, and what an exciting opportunity it promises to be! We are partnering with the local Jesuit community in Dar es Salaam, as well as with the University of Dar es Salaam, to create a unique program for our students, which allows them to be immersed in the culture, as well as to engage in service-learning opportunities teaching math and English in the Jesuit high school there. Of course, these students also have the opportunity to visit the plains of the Serengeti, the beaches of Zanzibar, and to see the white peak of Mount Kilimanjaro!
We are proud that the study abroad programs that Fairfield University sponsors — in Nicaragua, Italy, France, Australia, and Ireland, and now Tanzania — are so highly regarded that they attract students from other universities who appreciate our programs’ emphasis on study, combined with cultural engagement. In fact, this spring semester more than half of the students attending Fairfield-sponsored programs abroad were from other universities. This year, students were drawn from 23 colleges and universities, including Duke, Princeton, Brown, Boston College, and the University of San Francisco.
As our study abroad program grows, we will increasingly engage with the developing and emerging countries of the world, as we are in Tanzania. Beginning this summer, we will launch an innovative science and biological study program in Campos dos Goytacazes, a city about four hours north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We will also be sending three of our graduates this year to various places in the world as Fulbright scholars, as you will read in these pages. As a Jesuit institution, our over-arching mission is to develop global citizens, and our study abroad programs are an essential component of the education we offer.
On another note, we bid farewell and ask God’s blessings on our Ordinary for the last 11 years, Bishop William E. Lori, and congratulate him on his appointment as Archbishop of Baltimore, the oldest See in the United States, first occupied by John Carroll, a Jesuit and the founder of our sister institution, Georgetown University. Bishop Lori has been a frequent visitor to our campus, celebrating mass regularly in the Chapel and attending major university events such as Commencement. We are grateful for the many fruitful collaborations between Fairfield and the Diocese of Bridgeport which Bishop Lori has facilitated, especially in the interest of Catholic education in Bridgeport, and I remain personally grateful for the welcome he offered me when I arrived as President of Fairfield University, and for his continued advice and friendship over the years.
Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.