by Virginia Weir
There’s a feeling of excitement — of increasing momentum — these days at Fairfield. You can feel it when you walk across campus. Perhaps it’s the new walkways that make it easier to get around. Or maybe it’s the way the students are enjoying their living spaces, as word gets around about the new residence halls and refurbished apartments. Then there is a feeling of pride about Fairfield winning (for the fourth time!) the MAAC Commissioner’s Cup for overall excellence in athletics.
From the University’s newest students, to growing alumni participation, to great job prospects for Fairfield graduates, this is a period of growth for the University.
“We have worked hard, and that work is paying off,” said University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. “We are seeing more applicants, and greater alumni participation in our events and programming, while our academic programs continue to excel. Fairfield is moving forward briskly at a time when many universities and colleges are finding it tough going.”
CLASS OF 2016
Increased enrollment is one sign of the momentum. This year’s freshman class is one of the University’s largest, with 993 students, chosen from the largest pool ever of more than 9,000 applicants. Twenty percent are the first in their family to go to college.
“This is a terrific class — with students coming from 22 states, Puerto Rico, and as far away as Morocco and Bosnia-Herzegovina,” reported Karen Pellegrino, dean of enrollment. “They’re varied, academically gifted, and I have every confidence they will bring a lot to the University.”
In a testament to excellent academic qualifications, 62 Magis Scholarships — the University’s merit award for students who excel in the classroom and beyond — were awarded this year.
The Class of 2016 is also more involved in their communities and more recognized for noteworthy accomplishments than in years past. Their capacity for leadership is already impressive: There were 141 who held office in student government; 13 Eagle Scouts and 13 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients; and 160 were captains of a varsity sports team. Additionally, 70 percent were involved in service during high school.
Kyle Duffy ’16, an accounting major from Williston Park, N.Y., is excited to be part of the Class of 2016.
“I chose Fairfield because of the unique feeling and environment that only this school had. It just felt right for me,” he said. A member of the National Honor Society, Kyle played three sports in high school and was involved in both leadership and service groups. “The generous financial aid I’ve received really supported my decision. It has changed my life for the better, as it does for many families.”
ALUMNI CATCHING THE WAVE
“I meet hundreds of alumni in my travels all around the country,” Fr. von Arx noted. “It’s very gratifying to see what a close-knit alumni community has been formed, generation after generation. These bonds were formed through Fairfield.”
Alumni bonds are extending across the country. In the past five years, the number of regional alumni chapters has grown from four to ten, covering the Northeast, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. Last year, more than 3,100 alumni attended 60 regional chapter events. In addition to the Online Community, newly launched Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for each of the chapters help alumni stay in touch.
There is also increased interest in professional networking events, such as Briefcase Breakfasts and Fairfield C
onnects, along with service opportunities like the annual “Teddy Bears with Love” drive for children in hospitals during the holidays.
This growth has been spurred on by the efforts of the Office of Alumni Relations, which developed a new career services area early last year, and a new director who focuses specifically on regional engagement.
“Alumni involvement is crucial to so much of what the University does,” remarked Maureen (Errity) Bujno ’90, the new president of the Alumni Association. “We bring in new students by talking about our own experiences at Fairfield. And we share our expertise — with other alumni, by mentoring current students, and generally being ambassadors for all things Fairfield.”
Alumni involvement also translates into crucial financial support for the University, and those numbers have been going up steadily over the past four years. Total giving increased from $8.3 million in 2009 to over $30 million this past year, and undergraduate alumni donor participation climbed from 19 to 23 percent.
The financial support will be even more important as the University makes plans to expand its offerings in the healthcare fields, continue to attract quality faculty, and invest in scholarships so that talented students like those from the Class of 2016 can continue to come to Fairfield.
Fairfield graduates have an edge in the job market, too — an important advantage in today’s economy.
“Our students’ success is reflected in the high rates of employment and entrance into prestigious graduate schools,” noted the Rev.Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., senior vice president for academic affairs. “It starts with our faculty — who prize student learning as job one. Then there is excellent advising, mentoring, and tutoring from faculty, staff, and student peers. And the experience is deepened through research projects and internships.”
Of the more than three-quarters of the Class of 2011 who responded to a post-graduation survey, 93 percent had secured either full-time employment, admission to graduate school, or committed to service programs such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
Of those graduates with jobs, 30 percent had found employment through senior on-campus recruiting, and another 44 percent through internships they had while at Fairfield. Connections with alumni give Fairfield graduates an advantage, and the Career Planning Office welcomes job leads from alumni. Internships are reinforced by programs such as the new Job Shadow Program, which pairs alumni with junior- and senior-year students with an interest in their field. (See the Spring 2012 issue of Fairfield University Magazine.)
“At Fairfield, we know that a strong liberal arts education is the key to a flexible career and long-term professional success, in addition to its inherent value. But we also want students to be thoughtful about their futures right from the beginning,” said Dr. Robbin Crabtree, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Students are being advised to take advantage of new “Classroom to Career” web pages for all majors in the College, with links to very practical tips, from attending formal career planning events and developing leadership skills in student clubs, to working on their resumes with faculty advisors.
Nationally, the University has also kept its momentum. For the second consecutive year, Fairfield ranked second in the “Best Regional University North” category in the latest national college ranking report published by U.S. News & World Report. The report is based on indicators such as freshman retention, graduation rates, and the strength of the faculty. The University received high marks for small classes and a low student-faculty ratio of 11 to 1.
“I think those alumni who have been out of touch with Fairfield for some time would be surprised and pleased with the growth we’re experiencing across the whole spectrum of University life,” said Mark Reed ’96, vice president for administration and chief of staff. “There will always be challenges, of course, but the present is strong, and the future is bright for Fairfield.”