Letter from the President

Letter from the President

Mark Nemec headshot

Dear Friends,

As I write this in early September, classes have resumed, students have returned, and Fairfield University has opened — once again — for the fall semester. And yet, this is a reopening like no other in our history, and one that will always be remembered as further testament to our University’s resilience and community spirit.

The story of higher education over the next five, ten, fifty years will be one of dual transformation: evolving the best of what we do, while always asking how we might innovate to do more.

— Mark Nemec

While this academic year offers few guarantees, I can guarantee no institution is better positioned than Fairfield. Working alongside the state’s private universities through the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, we have collaborated with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and his ReOpen CT team to ensure that all our reopening strategies are built from the same thorough repopulation plan. For complete details of our extensive plan, I will direct you to fairfield.edu/reopen.

As I said in a recent Connecticut Post op-ed, we are putting hope, reason, and constructive action ahead of fear.

Now, as we seek to build the 21st century University, we recognize the opportunity to define modern excellence. While this process of definition will be a collective effort, I would suggest it has three foundational elements: 1) Evolving and innovating across our academic programs; and embracing our role as a civic and community institution by: 2) Affirming our place as a destination for arts, culture, and athletics; and 3) Animating our position as a beacon within the Jesuit, Catholic educational ecosystem.

As I shared last year, the first element is comprised of several strategic streams: a) Preparing for the advent of big data across all fields of inquiry; b) Fostering community and industry partnerships through engaged academic departments and centers; c) Broadening our geographic footprint through particularized courses of study; and d) Embracing new instructional modalities to serve ever-broader populations of students.

To this end, we have not been standing still. Thanks to the hard work of so many we have launched numerous initiatives this past year in each of these areas: the Fredrickson Family Innovation Lab which allows access to big data in the social sciences, the rechristened Center for Social Impact, an MBA with finance concentration in Shanghai, and multiple online and hybrid master’s programs to name a few.

In regard to our role as a community institution, the Provost’s Task Force on Arts & Culture has delivered its recommendations to affirm our place as a destination for the arts and dialogue in the humanities. Additionally, the now two-yearold Presidential Working Group on Diversity & Inclusive Excellence is tackling the broader question of our position as a beacon, and we are exploring the feasibility of Fairfield offering a program in the spirit of the two-year Arrupe College program at Loyola University Chicago, which would ensure greater access for first-generation students, Pell-eligible students, and students of color.

One might be tempted to ask how, in the face of current challenges, we could be engaging in such an audacious and long-term conversation. I would suggest we would be irresponsible not to do so. For the story of higher education over the next five, ten, fifty years will be one of dual transformation: evolving the best of what we do, while always asking how we might innovate to do more.

In closing, I must emphasize how eager our students have been to return to Fairfield — their optimism and their enthusiasm. Despite what might seem to be daunting challenges, our community is embracing this semester with open arms.

That should not surprise us at Fairfield, a University founded on faith — faith in the human spirit and faith in the transformative power of education. We who have inherited that faith are fortunate indeed.

With very best wishes,

Mark R. Nemec, PhD


Other Articles in the Fall 2020 Issue

Alumni Profile: Hugh Morgan '69

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Alumni Profile: Katie Burke '96

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Donor Profile: Bob Venero P'21, '24

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The Original lady laxers

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Guiding Eyes

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Art Inspired

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Goodbye, Mr. Fitz

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A New Chapter

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