The fall is always spectacular on our campus, and the weekend of Oct. 5 was no exception. The trees had just begun to turn, the weather was warm and the skies cleared — ideal conditions to celebrate 50 years of rugby at Fairfield University.
The men’s and the women’s teams, as well as alumni teams, played in the afternoon before an enthusiastic crowd of family and friends. Then, in the evening in the tent behind Bellarmine Hall, hundreds of ruggers from over five decades reminisced about old tackles, valiant tries, bitter losses, and glorious victories — memories that have bound them all together as lifelong friends.
It’s remarkable to consider that rugby is one of our oldest traditions at FairfieldUniversity, and yet it only goes back to 1963.As I looked over the proud facesof old andyoung ruggers that evening, it seemed clear tome that our youth is our strength. We are stilla budding institution — inheritors of five centuries of Jesuit tradition — but, nevertheless, a University just stepping into its maturity. Our vitality, flexibility, and enthusiasm will prove to be an advantage in the future.
The world of higher education has entered a tremendously challenging period of transition. Today’s technologies are revolutionizing the workplace, demanding of universities like ours that we adapt to keep pace and prepare our students for success.
It is also true that the costs of a university education have dramatically increased in recent years. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, the overall consumer price index has risen by 115 percent since 1985, while the college education rate has increased by 500 percent over the same period. While Fairfield has put a cap on significant tuition increases, these cost pressures compel us to be more focused than ever on clarifying the value proposition we offer. Meanwhile, the dynamics of the economy are such that graduates face a very competitive landscape when they enter the workplace. All of you who have college-age children will be familiar with these realities.
That is where our youthfulness as an institution gives us an edge, in my opinion. We are young enough to think quickly, to change, and to embrace the new opportunities before us.
I’m also proud to be able to say that, while we are changing, we continue to be recognized as an institution that prepares its graduates for success. Given the pressure on universities to provide value to students and their families, the fact that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently named us one of the “100 Best Values in Private Colleges” for 2014 is of particular note. Fairfield joined Yale University as the only two colleges in Connecticut that met that standard.
Once again, this year U.S. News and World Report ranked us among the top 2 percent of regional universities for the 23rd year in a row, while Bloomberg BusinessWeek named our Charles F. Dolan School of Business among the top 100 business schools in the nation.
To be recognized in this manner is gratifying, and yet none of these rankings take fully into account the ways through which, as a Jesuit institution, we develop persons of integrity. It is true that our graduates are successful. But we also form good citizens, good neighbors, and good friends — just like those men and women who gathered together in October in the tent at Bellarmine Hall, to share memories of the past, and to make plans for the future.
As I write, we are in the midst of a number of changes and innovations across a spectrum of areas and I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date with a few of the exciting changes this year.
“Classroom to Career”
We want students to think creatively about the future while they are in the midst of their studies. Tailored to all 16 majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, this program engages students in each of the four years of their undergraduate career, helping undecided majors to focus their energies, guiding them toward internships, summer jobs, and introducing them to people in the world of work who will inspire their imaginations.
New Home for the School of Engineering
This fall our School of Engineering classes moved to newly renovated spaces in the Rudolph F. Bannow Science Center — a first step in a major initiative to foster deeper collaboration between our science, engineering, and nursing programs.
Health Sciences Initiative
Our School of Nursing is among the most competitive in the Northeast, and the demand for admission exceeds what our current program and facilities can manage. At the same time, we recognize that the health sciences are one of the fastest growing areas of the economy. Our Health Sciences Initiative will create learning experiences where engineers, students in business, nursing, and science can collaborate. As teams, they will develop new technologies and learning practices, and be ideally prepared for the healthcare careers of the coming decades. Read the story inside.
New Master’s Program
Among other new programs, we introduced a new master’s degree in public administration this year (MPA), designed for individuals already working in the non-profit or government sector. Fairfield County is home to number of international non-profit institutions, and we saw a clear need to help develop leaders in this area.
Partnership with the 92nd Street Y
Embracing technology to broaden our programming will be critical. Our Open VISIONS Forum has been Fairfield’s flagship cultural engagement program for almost two decades (read more inside). We recently announced an exciting new partnership with the 92nd Street Y — one of New York’s premier cultural institutions — to expand the Open VISIONS concept, using current technologies to bring the most pertinent voices in the global conversation to our community. Called “Open VISIONS Forum-Espresso,” this program combines live-streaming HD broadcasts from the 92Y to Fairfield, to be followed by live, town hall-style conversations on campus. We launched this new collaboration in October with a conversation on the White Houses of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, featuring former press secretaries Robert Gibbs and Ari Fleischer.
There are many more innovations to come, and we are delighted that an alumnus, Kevin Lawlor ’79, has joined our leadership team as executive vice president to help guide us.
Kevin brings extensive and diversified experience to Fairfield, having spent more than 25 years in senior executive roles at United Technologies Corporation, serving most recently as vice president and general manager of AAR’s Precision Systems division in Alabama. Kevin was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he completed an MBA, and studied strategic cost management at Harvard Business School.
Kevin’s expertise in managing a major multinational corporation made up of a number of business units, all with their own unique products and strengths, make him ideally suited to serve Fairfield at this moment in our history. His experience will be invaluable as Fairfield becomes increasingly invested in international programs, attracts more foreign scholars, and as our role as a leader in Jesuit education continues to be recognized around the world.
These are just a few of the developments at Fairfield in the past year. Inside this edition of the Fairfield University Magazine you will find others. What they have in common is that they are forward-looking. They reflect the willingness of all the members of the University community to pursue excellence, adopt new ideas and practices, and to stride confidently into the winds of change. They reflect a disposition of enthusiasm and confidence — a disposition that befits an institution as youthful as ours.
Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.