Fairfield University's Father John M. Conlisk Scholarship awarded to graduate student studying at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business


The Father John M. Conlisk Scholarship at Fairfield University, awarded each year to an MBA or Master of Science in finance candidate from Ireland, has been awarded to Shane O'Rourke, of County Clare, Ireland.

O'Rourke is pursuing a master's in finance at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

He is the 15th student to receive the scholarship, which is worth about $50,000 and covers a student's entire tuition for the three-semester program, room and board and medical expenses. The scholarship is named after the late Fr. John Conlisk, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who served the Diocese of Bridgeport.

O'Rourke received a bachelor's degree in Business Studies from the University of Limerick, where he majored in economics and finance with a minor in quantitative analyses. The previous five Conlisk scholars also received their undergraduate degrees from the University of Limerick, which houses one of Ireland's most prestigious business schools.

A native of Shannon, O'Rourke was attracted to the Dolan School in part because of its internship opportunities with top investment banking firms. He was also interested in learning from faculty steeped in the knowledge of best business practices. "I know the term 'once in a life-time opportunity' gets batted about very often, but in this case it's very apt. In fact, I think my parents were even happier than I was about receiving the scholarship. I worked as a mover in Boston a couple of summers ago, so it is not the first time they've seen me off to the States."

The opportunity to combine post-graduate education and foreign travel was important to O'Rourke. "I researched (Fairfield's) Web site - the courses the Dolan School has to offer, its past pupils and the campus life. I was also in contact with previous recipients of the scholarship about the graduate program and the whole Fairfield experience. In that regard, word of mouth, more than anything, was what attracted me to the school.

When the scholarship was established in 1990 at Fairfield, the economy of Ireland was in a troubled state. The job market there was bleak. The scholarship was seen as an opportunity to give an Irish business student a chance to make contacts with U.S. financial companies, and in turn broaden his or her job prospects.

Since then, Ireland's economy has rebounded, but the chance to study in America continues to be viewed as a big boost to an Irish student's resume, according to Norm Solomon, Ph. D., dean of the Dolan School.

The scholarship also benefits Dolan graduate students in that they learn from Conlisk scholars who share their in-depth knowledge of how business is conducted in the European Union and in the booming Irish economy.

Kevin M. Conlisk, a Fairfield University trustee and the principal and chief financial officer of Alinabal Holdings Corp., headquartered in Milford, Conn., is part of the committee of about 20 Irish-Americans from Bridgeport that instituted the Conlisk Scholarship at Fairfield. It is named for his brother, who was pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Redding, Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown, and St. Jerome Church in Norwalk. "We're living in a global economy today. You can't overstate the importance of learning how business is conducted throughout the world. Shane, like those before him, will undoubtedly bring an interesting dimension to the classrooms of the Dolan School," Conlisk said.

Dr. Solomon said, "The Irish scholars bring a tremendous amount to the classroom in terms of cultural diversity and a direct perspective on the "Celtic Tiger," the term that refers to the robust Irish economy. The recipients thrive in our friendly and personal environment with unlimited opportunities for personal and professional growth."

Like the Conlisks, many scholarship committee members are first generation Americans. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland. They wanted to better their lives and saw education as an avenue to open doors for themselves and their children. Kevin Conlisk, a 1966 graduate of the Fairfield, said, "Education was viewed as the key to opportunity. It gave you choices."

Conlisk scholars have gone on to work for UBS, the Ford Motor Company, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Deloitte Touche, among other companies.

O'Rourke hopes to take part in the experiential learning opportunities the Dolan School fosters with Fortune 500 companies. The Dolan School works with many of the area headquarters of foreign multinationals to provide such top-notch internships. As part of his undergraduate education, he completed an eight-month co-operative education internship at KPMG's Financial Services division in Ireland. "Next summer, I hope to intern with an Investment Bank with a view to forging a career in that area. Later in life, I'd like to obtain a doctorate and go on to work as a lecturer."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 15, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 79