Two Fairfield University seniors to attend Inauguration as Inaugural Scholars


30 students from Bridgeport High Schools to attend with Academic Talent Search

Melissa Fischer and Kimberly Dumas, both senior biology majors at Fairfield University, will be attending the Inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, as inaugural scholars. Melissa, who has completed over 3,000 hours of community service since 2001, and Kimberly, who serves as vice president of Students for Life at Fairfield, will take part in the University Presidential Inaugural Conference, a five-day program that provides university student scholars from across the country with a deeper understanding of the history behind the electoral process and the rich traditions surrounding the presidential inauguration.

In addition, 36 Bridgeport high school students from Bassick, Harding and Bullard-Havens, who are enrolled in Fairfield's Academic Talent Search Program, will also be making the trek to Washington for the Inauguration. The 36 students, who were selected based on their records and grades, will leave Monday morning, Jan. 19, at 5:30 a.m. and travel by bus. During their three-day stay, in addition to attending President Barack Obama's Inauguration, they will tour the Smithsonian Institution, see the Washington memorials at night and visit the National Archives and Howard University.

Holly Franquet, project coordinator with Talent Search, said the annual trip usually takes place in July, but over the summer they decided to move the trip to January to take in the Inauguration and the response has been very enthusiastic. "Everybody wants to go," she says, "including chaperones."

Geoffrey Church, Ph.D., director of the Health Professions Program at Fairfield University, said "attending the inauguration and conference will be a terrific life experience for Melissa and Kimberly. I am so proud of the work they have done at Fairfield. They are exactly the type of people that health professional schools are looking to recruit – health care providers that have a real interest in working to better their communities and inject compassion into the treatment process." Both students will be pursuing professional education in the health sciences this fall, Melissa in dentistry and Kimberly as a Physician Assistant.

As Inaugural Scholars, Melissa and Kimberly will have the opportunity to interact with a major presidential candidate, White House officials, congressional staff members, political experts and other VIPs, such as Secretary of State, General Colin L. Powell (Ret.), and former Vice President Al Gore. To be selected students needed to have participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council or the International Scholar Laureate Program; or be a member of select honor societies. Both Melissa and Kimberly are alums of the National Youth Leadership Forum.

While both students are excited about attending such a historical inauguration, they are also looking forward to taking part in the conference forums. Melissa signed up to attend the government policy and medicine forum where most students will have backgrounds in business, pre-law and politics. With a double major in biology and religious studies, Melissa says, "Health care reform is one of the big topics we will be discussing and I think I can offer a unique perspective at the conference with my background in biology and science." At the same time, Kimberly is looking forward to sessions in foreign policy and the Supreme Court. "There are important issues going on in government and foreign policy that I have not had a chance to focus on. I'm looking forward to meeting people and learning more about those subjects."

Melissa has volunteered in several important community initiatives, including as a teacher/tutor with the McGiveny Center and Family Literacy Project in Bridgeport and the Little City Foundation in Palatine, Ill., a home for children with Autism. She said her work with the Little City Foundation, where funding was limited, was particularly meaningful. She taught classes there and led an effort to renovate the recreation center, creating a work-out area with equipment donations from a Bally fitness center. She also helped to bring needed books and computers to the home.

Kimberly has been active with Malta House in Norwalk, a shelter for women with children or who are about to give birth. "The women are able to live there and are helped to find jobs and get on their feet," she said. She has also been involved with providing meals at Prospect House in Bridgeport.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on January 11, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 176

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