Open Space

Open Space

Students converse on the steps of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library

New meeting places, learning areas, and lounges have transformed the Fairfield student-life experience.

I find it very motivational and inspiring to watch experienced nursing students working in their scrubs in the ‘sim lab.’ The study rooms provide us with the tools we need to be prepared. The spaces are really useful for small and large groups.”

— Caroline Katovitz ’24, Nursing Major

With 220 acres and nearly 2 million square feet of building space, Fairfield’s campus can feel like its own little city; but through proper planning, the University has managed to create various intimate spaces across campus to better serve its students’ social and academic needs.

Drawing upon feedback from students on what they would like to see on campus, and informed by the University’s “Fairfield 2020: The Way Forward” strategic plan launched in 2014, Fairfield has added a number of spaces over recent years that foster collaborative and social experiences, while also carving out quieter spaces for studying and personal improvement.

“The residential quad renovations provide ample space for students to gather for social and curricular activities, serving as a bustling and scenic environment for them to grow as students and young adults,” said Karen Donahue ’03, vice president of Student Life. “From meeting with faculty, to watching a movie with floormates, students are coming together to learn and grow. The well-lit lounges highlight the vibrant community created by our diverse body of students.”

Over the last five years, the University has completed a number of projects, which include collaborative spaces in the Academic Commons in DiMenna-Nyselius Library, communal first-year lounges in residence halls, the brainstorming hub known as the Fredrickson Family Innovation Lab, additional dining options to the Barone Campus Center, gathering spaces in the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies, and both graduate and undergraduate student lounges in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, the newest building on campus.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback from both students and faculty on the collaborative spaces we have created in just about every new facility we’ve built,” said David Frassinelli MS’92, vice president for Facilities Management. “At one point, it seemed as if we were creating too much space, but it’s great to see that they are being utilized at all hours of the day, every day of the week. More students are looking for academic support to enhance their successful academic experience, and these spaces we’ve created facilitate a flexible environment in which they can do so, one-on-one or in groups of 3 to 10.”

A collage of images of open space areas at Fairfield University
    Located on the fourth floor of the Barone Campus Center, “The Tully” offers students a modern dining experience with a taste of community. The dining hall offers a fun and engaging experience featuring farm-to-table meals, hydroponic gardens used for fresh greens, a rotating global food station, chef demos, an allergy-free zone, and community tables and booths. This open space allows students to socialize with their friends and meet new people while also expanding their food palates. Nothing brings people together like great food.
    With expansive simulation labs that make you think you’ve stepped into a real hospital, open spaces for socializing, enhanced clinical learning environments offering hands-on experience, and plenty of natural light, Fairfield Egan is a popular place for nursing students to meet for study groups and project collaborations.
    Fairfield Dolan opened for business in the fall of 2018. The fully modernized Fairfield Dolan features innovative labs and centers, interactive learning spaces, an event hall, a graduate student lounge, a convenient Dunkin’ coffee bar, and more.
    Nestled in the heart of campus, the Barone Campus Center is the hub for student activities. The Campus Center is home to The Stag Snack Bar, Stag Spirit Shop, student clubs and organizations such as the Fairfield Mirror student newspaper and radio station WVOF, a commuter lounge, collaborative spaces to meet or study, Dunkin’, and The Tully. The recently updated food court-style space, The Stag, now features a weekly rotating local restaurant and a build-your-own meal option called Sally the Salad-Making Robot, alongside the deli, grill, and sushi bars.
    Located in the Walsh Athletic Center varsity weight room, Fairfield Fuel is a state-of-the-art fueling station designed to provide healthy post-workout snacks for Fairfield’s varsity student athletes. Grab-and-go snacks provided by Stop & Shop are perfect for varsity student athletes with busy schedules and help them achieve their nutritional needs for peak performance. Snacks include fruit, granola, protein shakes, nuts, yogurt, and more.
    Located in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library, the Academic Commons is a technology-rich academic hub for support services. Geared to ensure student success while at Fairfield, Academic Commons space includes Academic Support & Retention, the Center for Academic Excellence, the ITS Help Desk, the Fredrickson Family Innovation Lab, the Math Center, the Office of Accessibility, and the Writing Center.
    Equipped with mobile workstations, seminar rooms, and HDTV screens, this state-of-the-art lab provides students with a physical and digital gathering space for interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and instruction. Established through the generosity of Fairfield alumni Scott and Susan Fredrickson ’82, the lab also hosts workshops and classes throughout the academic year.
    Home of the Ignatian Leadership Residential College, 42 Langguth Hall opened in fall 2019. Offering the comforts of home, this residential hall features a spacious and light-filled atrium facing The Quad, expansive meeting spaces, student lounges, and suite-style living arrangements for more than 200 sophomore students.
    Tucked away in the woods on the northeast side of campus, The Levee offers students a downtown restaurant feel, just a quick stroll from their residence halls. The recently renovated facility offers a menu filled with pizza, sandwiches, frozen or on-the-go meals, and grocery store items, in an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. A refresh of the interior plays nicely off of the prime location, surrounded by Fairfield’s athletic fields, RecPlex, and Walsh Athletic Center.
  10. THE QUAD
    Home to Fairfield’s first-year student residence halls and the Sophomore Residential College program, the Quad is a popular spot for students to get together and engage in the Fairfield community. From QuadFest, to New England Day, to Fairfield Arts Fest, the Quad is always buzzing with activities and live stage performances. This outdoor space features picnic tables and inviting circles of red and white Adirondack chairs.
    Located on the Quad, first-year residence halls are a home away from home. In the last few years, Campion and Jogues debuted their newly renovated lounge spaces. With expansive windows, students can study or have a movie night while overlooking the Quad.
A collage of five images showing open space areas at Fairfield University

Bottom-right image: Students walk outside the Dolan School of Business.

Fairfield’s campus has been dramatically modernized over the last few years, and that is the result of a campus master plan that was developed in tandem with the broader strategic plan, “Fairfield 2020: Building a More Sustainable Future,” launched in January of 2014.

For 17 months, more than 200 members of the University community — faculty, students, staff, administrators, and alumni — served on one of 11 task forces examining ways that the University could build a new business model, grow graduate programs, harness technology, lead in pedagogical innovation, and enhance the total student experience, among other goals. The overall management of the process was led by former Executive Vice President and COO Kevin P. Lawlor ’79, P’21,’19,’17, who joined Fairfield after more than 25 years in senior executive roles at United Technologies Corporation. He served the University from 2013 until the summer of 2021.

Changes were crucial, Lawlor said, because the University found itself at a historic inflection point.

“When I joined in 2013 we were still in the shadow of the financial crises of 2008, when the economy sent a shock wave through higher education,” he said. “That shook everyone up.”

The University would have to be better prepared for the future — a future that was going to be competitive and demand new academic programs, a more sophisticated financing structure that would enhance the University’s capacity to borrow economically, the introduction and development of new teaching models, a better harness of resources, and more.

“We probably could have written that strategic plan quicker than we did,” he continued. “But it was important to get input and support from the campus community. So we had task forces working on everything from the dining hall, to athletics, to academics. It required a very broad sweep of people working together for quite a long time to make it happen.

“Then on a parallel track, we knew that if we were going to get the growth in enrollment we needed, and the growth in our reputation, we needed to revitalize the campus. There was a tremendous amount of need. But our goal was to make a showplace. And I think we have come a long way with that.”

To be more sustainable, the University was going to have to get a little bigger: “We couldn’t continue as just an undergraduate school. We needed to pay attention to our graduate offerings both online and in-person.” More emphasis was placed on the unique brands of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business and the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies.

“They needed to be promoted in their own right. We also knew we needed more scale. We needed to achieve about 4,000 undergraduate students to generate the revenue we would require. So we needed to get bigger and that meant new housing. And we needed some ‘wow’ factor,” he continued. “We needed to be a destination kind of school.”

And so the master plan was put into effect, resulting in new facilities for both the Egan and Dolan Schools, the remodeling of Donnaruma Hall, the construction of the new Barnyard Manor residence, the addition of the Langguth Hall residence, renovations to Jogues and Campion Halls, the complete overhaul of the Barone Campus Center, the refurbishment of laboratories, the creation of Rafferty Stadium, the expansion of the Aloysius P. Kelley Center, and the renovation of the RecPlex — which, Lawlor noted, “was opened the year I graduated in 1979 so, yes, it was time for some changes there” — as well as other new buildings and facilities.

“There was no piece of the University’s operations that we didn’t try to address,” he said.

The extensive planning process and the close relationships formed during the period had an additional benefit: the core working team that implemented the plan was, in large part, called back into action to work efficiently together again when the Covid-19 epidemic took hold. “We had to pivot quickly and successfully” to a University that worked virtually,” Lawlor said. “And we did it.”

Coming back to his alma mater as executive vice president and COO was kind of a dream job in itself, Lawlor said. “In some ways my career until then had prepared me to come and sit in that chair. So it is one of the highlights of my professional career. When I saw all of the talent at Fairfield that was brought to bear — it was one of the most rewarding periods of my life. I’m immensely proud of what we accomplished. I think Fairfield is on a trajectory now that you could only imagine in 2013. I think it was ‘mission accomplished’ in terms of the goal, which was to build a more sustainable future for the University.”

Other Articles in the Winter 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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Alumni Profile: Mary Alice Limperopulos ’13

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Alumni Profile: Alfred Foglio ’92

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Opening the Doors

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Nursing Ambition

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Protecting Coral Reefs

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God’s Work

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