The view from the bus: Celebrating 40 years of women at Fairfield

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications on June 26, 2014

040314_Sister_Simone_Campbell_144 copy 2The activist nun Sister Simone Campbell turned out to be the perfect keynote speaker to celebrate the 40th anniversary of undergraduate women graduating from Fairfield and the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Program (now called Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies).

“Nuns on the Bus” organizer Sister Campbell presented “The View from the Bus: Opportunities for Making Mischief,” on April 3 at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

Sister Campbell is an attorney, religious leader and renowned advocate for systematic change. She is the executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace, which educates, lobbies and organizes for economic and social transformation. In Washington, Sister Campbell lobbies for issues of peace building, immigration reform and healthcare and economic justice.

During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, Sister Campbell wrote the famous “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill and got 59 leaders of Catholic Sisters to sign, a sign seen by many as critical to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2012, she was instrumental in organizing the “Nuns on the Bus” tour of nine states to oppose a budget she felt would decimate programs to help people in need. She recently completed another cross-country Nuns on the Bus tour in 2013 focused on immigration reform.

Sister Campbell’s appearance was the centerpiece of the yearlong 40/20 celebration on campus. Though professional schools admitted women students before the 1970s, the first class of women undergraduates walked across the Bellarmine Hall terrace at Commencement in 1974.  Since then, female students have gone on to many leadership roles on campus and many successful careers after graduating from Fairfield.

“We were thrilled to have Sister Campbell on campus to mark this significant milestone in the history of the University and our interdisciplinary program,” said Dr. David Gudelunas, co-director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGS). “Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies is one of the most dynamic programs on campus and we couldn’t think of a more dynamic speaker to help us celebrate with faculty, students, community members and hundreds of graduates of our program.”

040314_Sister_Simone_Campbell_132 copy 2WGS is an interdisciplinary program that challenges the cultural, intellectual, social and political assumptions about sex, gender and sexuality systems. Courses in the program critically engage issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality and other key components of identity, and the ways they intersect.

The program was first developed by a group of faculty who met over the two years from fall 1991 to spring 1993 to first envision and then write the proposal for the program. The program was formally approved and inaugurated in fall 1993.

“After listening to her speech, I was very proud to be a member of the WGS community,” said Adavia Thornton ’14. “It’s women like Sister Simone Campbell that reflect the hope and fearless dedication of female leaders in our society,” said Thornton. “Sister Simone shared her gifts with me, and I am inspired to share mine with rest of my community.”

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