Letter From The President

Letter From The President

(standing, l-r) Ella Gardiner ’24; President Mark R. Nemec, PhD; Tobenna Ugwu ’22; Alexis LeClair ’24; (in front, l-r) Kyle Bruenn ’23 and Colin McCarney ’23.

Pictured: (standing, l-r) Ella Gardiner ’24; President Mark R. Nemec, PhD; Tobenna Ugwu ’22; Alexis LeClair ’24; (in front, l-r) Kyle Bruenn ’23 and Colin McCarney ’23.

Dear Friends,

In this issue of Fairfield University Magazine, we celebrate 50 years of coeducation at our University, with a remembrance of just a few of the many extraordinary women who have shaped and built the institution that we love and serve.

“ The founding community of Fairfield in 1942 could never have imagined the dynamic, inclusive, technologically sophisticated University that Fairfield has become in 2020. The gauntlet thrown before us is to continue to evolve and innovate, so that we are the best University we can be on our 100th anniversary in 2042 and beyond.”

— President Mark R. Nemec, PhD

Amongst the many lessons of this celebration is that things change. A state of affairs that at one point in history seems natural and immutable can very quickly become out-of-date, and a drag on innovation. I would argue in fact that the history of higher education shows that universities are far more dynamic places than we often tend to think, with tectonic plates constantly shifting beneath the surface. Yes, we have our roots at Fairfield firmly planted in the soil of Jesuit pedagogy, and in the world-transformative vision of St. Ignatius himself. At the same time, we are always on the move — as we should be, and as were the first Jesuits — heading out to the frontiers and continually asking ourselves: What more can we do to educate, teach, and enliven those around us? What is the world asking of us now?

The founding community of Fairfield in 1942 could never have imagined the dynamic, inclusive, technologically sophisticated University that Fairfield has become in 2020. The gauntlet thrown before us is to continue to evolve and innovate, so that we are the best University we can be on our 100th anniversary in 2042 and beyond.

As a steward of this mission, I am enormously optimistic and proud of where we are today, and how we have pivoted to embrace this challenge. The current pandemic has been horrific on so many levels. But it has compelled us — and indeed the whole of higher education — to accelerate our pace of innovation. In fact I would say it has taken seven years of change that we could have anticipated, and truncated it all the way down to seven months, seven weeks, or even to seven days.

This has been most evident in our teaching and scholarship throughout the pandemic. Despite the many restrictions we had to navigate to keep everyone safe, we successfully managed our on-campus experience for our students leading up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. All our programs had to develop virtual learning capabilities and adapt to them almost overnight. Teaching in the classroom — or at times in outdoor tents for many of us, including College of Arts and Sciences Dean Richard Greenwald, PhD and myself, who team-taught a class in higher education and society this fall — has been augmented and advanced through technologically enhanced pedagogy. We don’t have to sacrifice the attention to the individual student that is the hallmark of Jesuit education as we advance. What we are learning — with all the inconveniences that the pandemic has brought — is that we can use virtual technologies to broaden the learning experience, while also providing attention to the whole person at the most personal of levels.

There is also a great deal of innovation going on behind-the-scenes, with respect to our focus on developing academic programs that meet the world where it is today. In September, we welcomed the first 35 students to our Shanghai MBA with finance concentration. The program, led by Fairfield professors, will allow professionals in Shanghai to continue in their careers while obtaining a highly desirable American MBA from our nationally ranked Charles F. Dolan School of Business. This pilot program serves as a model for the kinds of creative educational partnerships that will bring a Fairfield education to ever broader audiences in ever more innovative ways. In this spirit, we have recently partnered with the online program management company Collegis to launch four new, entirely online graduate programs, offering MS degrees in cybersecurity, business analytics, marketing analytics and strategy, and healthcare administration. This partnership will assist us in developing and marketing these programs and making them available to a wider constituency. We are planning to launch additional online graduate programs in the coming months to insure we are meeting the world as it is. This is an enormously important development as we fulfill our mission as the modern, Jesuit Catholic University, and as we bring our unique combination of academic quality and personalized attention to students of all ages, anywhere in the world. We are doing this while seeing an increased graduate enrollment of 10 percent, with our programs in interior design, social work, and our MBA enjoying particularly strong growth. While many peer institutions are struggling to meet their enrollment projections, Fairfield welcomed its second largest undergraduate class to campus this year, with the highest overall GPA in any class of our modern history.

We haven’t forgotten that campus life remains the wellspring of our vitality. Our plans for a new 85,000-square-foot Convocation Center to be built on the current site of Alumni Hall are still in place, with our expectation of completing the project in fall of 2022. The new facility will boast a state-of-the-art broadcast and media center, luxury seating and lounge areas, and updated features that will truly make it a showpiece of Fairfield’s modern campus, and allow us to host community experiences — lectures, debates, symposia — on a scale that befits a first-rate University. The days when we can once again be together in this way as a community will come.

In closing, thank you all as always for your role in the shared mission of our University, and thank you in particular to all of the thousands of women — all of them trailblazers and pioneers — who have made Fairfield the innovative, welcoming, and continually evolving University that it is today, and will be for generations to come. As we move into the future, we do so with confidence, mindful that we are a community that is always growing, always innovating, to meet the needs and challenges of the world as it is.

With my best wishes for you all,

Mark R. Nemec,
PhD President

Other Articles in the Winter 2020 Issue

50 years of firsts

Read the Article

Leading With Kindness

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Joe Sauvageau ’79

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Colleen Gibson '09

Read the Article

First To The Big Dance

Read the Article

The Age of Personalization

Read the Article

They Got Game

Read the Article

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