Areas of Focus

2014-16: Water

Water covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and has become a hot topic issue for people around the world. Students, faculty, staff, and the community at Fairfield University will have the opportunity to become active participants engaging with each other to learn more about these issues and consider solutions for this University-wide focus running from 2014-2016.

2012-14: Cities

A busy city street in AsiaGiven the historical, political, philosophical, sociological and scientific significance of the city, and its deep ties to citizenship both as an idea and as a lived experience, this theme offers many opportunities to foster and highlight interdisciplinary learning at Fairfield. Events will foster discussion of cities ancient and modern, near and far, real and imagined.

Over half of the world's population now lives in cities, and trends suggest that close to 75 per cent of the global population will live in urban and metropolitan areas by the middle of the 21st century. Most Fairfield graduates will earn their first job in a city. The topic of cities is thus connected to our previous events focus, Global Citizenship, in that today's cities are the specific locations or "theaters" of the broader phenomenon we call globalization: sites in which transnational flows of capital, ideas, and cultures are taking place; locations in which global processes–both those which encourage and those which limit human freedom–are happening on a daily basis. Moreover, many of the largest and fastest growing metropolitan regions are no longer in Europe and North America, but in Asia, Latin America, and outer Africa: cities such as Shanghai and Beijing (in China), Sao Paulo (in Brazil), Mumbai and Karachi (in India and Pakistan), Jakarta (in Indonesia), Istanbul (in Turkey), and Cairo and Lagos (in Egypt and Nigeria). To understand the promises and problems of urban life globally, and to comprehend the consequences of international flows of modernity and capital, we must look to these cities as well as those closer to home.

A bustling city marketplaceAll academic disciplines are important to this investigation. Students of the humanities and social sciences have traditionally looked to the city as a microcosm of civilization itself, as well as of its "discontents," to use Sigmund Freud's phrase. From the ancient city of Ur, in Mesopotamia, to the Greek City-States, imperial Rome, the walled Medieval city, and the rise of the modern industrial metropolis in the 19th century, the city has served as a way to understand fundamental changes in our lives, institutions, and social contracts: both our capacity to engineer productive civil societies and socio-economic systems and our capacity to exclude, exploit, and isolate. The irony that urban locations, while bringing large numbers of people in close contact, can also alienate the individual from society and expose the massive economic imbalances between classes has long been one of the central concerns in studies of the city. Therefore, there has also always been the question of how to engineer a better city - how to design productive, sustainable, equitable urban environments. From utopian political theories and computerized virtual cities to the ongoing challenges of architecture, public health, finance, management, infrastructure, and public administration, this question is as pressing as ever, and its answers lie in collective knowledge, cross-disciplinary conversations, and diverse learning communities.


Nels Pearson,
Associate Professor of English & Faculty Facilitator for "Cities" Events

2010-12: Global Citizenship

"If a man be gracious to strangers, it shows that he is a citizen of the world, and his heart is no island, cut off from other islands, but a continent that joins them." - Francis Bacon

As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield University's adherence to Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy involves developing a vision of the world that is holistic and balances intellectual, emotional, and spiritual understandings and responses. By drawing on all of these rich resources, students are encouraged to seek the essential value in everything and cultivate a passion for justice. Toward this end, Fairfield University is orienting itself toward the education and formation of global citizens.

A Global Citizenship flag that was displayed on campusGlobal citizens are good problem solvers, able to function in culturally unfamiliar environments, value engagement in civic culture, seek social justice, and maintain a holistic world view grounded in the unifying value of humanity. With this in mind, Fairfield has adopted its current singular area of focus as Global Citizenship.

Global Citizenship is aligned with Fairfield's mandate to:

  • Prepare all members of its community to reflect humbly on our privileges
  • Use creative means to connect with others
  • Seek experiences that allow for the application and expansion of knowledge gained in the classroom
  • Recognize the value inherent in striving to transform society for the greater good

This initiative is the result of many discussions across the University during the past 2 years. University President, Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., has charged the campus community to organize courses and to "coordinate important lectures, concerts, gallery installations, symposia, festivals, recitals, etc. in a coherent fashion, so that the University may realize the full value of these events for our students, faculty, staff, and our external audiences."

Fairfeld University is at an exciting juncture concerning global education and social justice. By integrating the vision of globalization at every level of the institution, Fairfield explicitly orients itself toward the education and formation of global citizens - an education that crosses all borders and can influence generations.

2010: Latin America, Romeo & Juliet, Communities

Fairfield University's strategic vision stresses the importance of "integration" as a way of approaching education. In keeping with the long tradition of a Jesuit education, we strive to engage our students in the classroom and through co-curricular opportunities designed to teach you to think across disciplinary boundaries. At Fairfield, you'll learn how to see the points of intersection between the sciences and humanities and between spiritual reflection and rational inquiry. By doing so, you'll develop as a creative thinker with the ability to approach the world with a rigorous and open mind.

The Fairfield community has selected 3 areas on which to focus major academic and cultural enrichment programming for the 2009-10 academic year. Each area links back to the University's strategic priorities related to diversity and global citizenship. They are:

Latin America: Images, Dialogue, and Action

...So close in terms of geographical distance, yet so unknown to us in terms of its historic, institutional, and human landscape

A globe, Latin American city, and a band of guitarists

At the beginning of the 21st century, Latin America represents not only a neighboring reality with which the United States is learning to coexist, but also a unique intersection of potentials and opportunities for meaningful cooperation and intercultural dialogue. Through a series of events, Fairfield seeks to promote intellectual and creative explorations into factors affecting integration between the U.S. and the region, while also showcasing the University's own administrative, curricular, and research-related initiatives in connection with different Latin American countries.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:

...Exploring young love, family and political turmoil, and issues of race, gender, and religion

Barbra and Sonya Berlovitz, directors of the Romeo and Juliet play

The R&J project is a multidisciplinary exploration of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that will culminate in Theatre Fairfield's production of the play in April 2010. A curricular initiative of Fairfield's Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the University community will explore Romeo and Juliet as it relates to young love, family and political turmoil, and issues of race, gender, and religion. Barbra and Sonya Berlovitz, internationally renowned and distinguished theatre artists of Minneapolis's Theatre de la Jeune Lune, will come to Fairfield University for an Artistic Residency in Spring 2010 to cast, rehearse, and produce a contemporary version of this classic. The Theatre Program will handle all aspects of the Artist Residency from logistics through final production.

Communities in Action: A Year of Activism

...Exploring how we attend to the intersection of the "living" that occurs in our various communities through activism and "learning."

Various students helping out communities in need

A Year of Activism aims to engage the campus in thinking about how we as a community may collectively work together to act upon the University's mission for social justice and its commitment to diversity. All sectors of the community are invited to think and learn about the activism that we have done and will do in the future. Building on the activism of student groups, faculty, and staff along with Campus Ministry, this focus opportunity will enliven how we attend to the intersection of the "living" that occurs in our various communities through activism and the "learning" that occurs in classrooms and co-curricular contexts. The focus on this intersection, in addition to aligning with the University's strategic vision, will help build on the work in our community and enhance our collective capacity to assume responsibility for meaningful change on peace, justice, and diversity issues. Programming will revolve around 3 areas:

  • Taking Action for Peace
  • Feminist Activism
  • Communities in Action Summit

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