Fairfield University’s Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship is heaven sent

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold on June 26, 2014

By Meg McCaffrey DSBConlisk copy

For Bernadette Liston, an e-mail from Fairfield University couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time.

In May, the twenty-three-year-old from County Limerick, Ireland learned that she had been awarded the Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship to attend Fairfield University’s Dolan School of Business, worth about $55,000. It is given annually to a graduate student from Ireland to enhance their career prospects, and covers all tuition, housing, and medical insurance expenses for the time it takes to earn a master’s degree.

With Ireland’s unemployment rate hovering around 13 percent, the opportunity came just as Liston found herself at something of a crossroads.

“Massive decisions would have faced me if I hadn’t come to Fairfield – find a job in Ireland’s unsteady economy, apply for graduate programs in Ireland or immigrate to find work in countries like Australia or Dubai like so many other Irish young people,” said Liston.

She got the great news after finishing up her eight-hour shift at a supermarket. “After work that night, I sat around the kitchen table with my family conversing about our day,” said Liston, who goes by the nickname “Bernie.” “I read the e-mail from Fairfield University, and I could not believe my eyes. It felt like I had won the lottery. It was a feeling of complete excitement. I knew my hard work had paid off.”

The Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship at Fairfield was founded 22 years ago when the Irish economy was struggling. A group of Irish Americans led by Fairfield University trustee Kevin M. Conlisk ’66 believed a scholarship would give an Irish student an opportunity to make business contacts. The scholarship is named for Mr. Conlisk’s late brother, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who served the Diocese of Bridgeport. Many of the founding scholarship committee members are first- or second-generation Irish Americans, and established it to help a deserving young Irish citizen.

It’s not difficult to see why she’s found herself at the Dolan School of Business: A top student, she completed an internship in Ireland’s Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and is the recipient of a Gold President’s Volunteering Award from her alma mater.

“Knowledge is a powerful tool in the business world,” said Liston, who is now enrolled in the MBA program with a concentration in accounting. She hopes to begin her career in America, working for one of the Big Four accounting firms.

Liston is happy diving into the opportunities faculty has presented her: she’s a member of the Student Monetary Investment Fund and is taking part in the upcoming PwC Accounting Competition and the Deloitte FanTAXtic Competition. Outside of academics, Liston has volunteered for Campus Ministry activities and plans to learn some new moves by way of the Latin Dancing and Ballroom Dancing clubs.

“Each scholar I have worked with has seen this opportunity as a life-changer,” said Mark Ligas, Ph.D., associate dean and director of graduate programs at the Dolan School. Rev. Conlisk scholars “bring so much to the classroom.” In addition to sharing an international perspective in class discussions—especially with regard to the European Union—they offer “a fresh perspective on an individual’s expectations of what our graduate programs should or could do to develop a successful and marketable graduate,” noted Dr. Ligas.

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