President Nemec Announces Proposal to Increase Educational Access

President Nemec Announces Proposal to Increase Educational Access

A bright and sunny day on Fairfield campus, showing students walking through the quad.

The proposed academic unit would offer an associate degree program as part of the University’s ongoing “Pathways to Higher Learning” partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport.

...this initiative is designed to improve upward mobility and career trajectory for students not currently served by Fairfield University.

— President Mark R. Nemec, PhD

Fairfield University is exploring plans for a new academic unit that would offer an associate degree to students from low-income families and under-represented communities, primarily in the surrounding Bridgeport region. 

Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, made the announcement this week and said that the proposed initiative, to be undertaken in partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport, represents a major step toward increased educational access at a critical moment in our society.

“Building upon the fine work undertaken last year by the President’s Commission on Educational Access, chaired by the former Dean of the School of Education and Human Development Robert D. Hannafin, PhD, this initiative is designed to improve upward mobility and career trajectory for students not currently served by Fairfield University. The initiative offers a pathway to a four-year degree and lifetime learning,” Dr. Nemec said. “We believe that Fairfield University can leverage its current position of strength to build on existing efforts and establish the University as a leader in educational access in our own community.”

The University will continue to work with The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, the diocesan staff, and other community partners to move the project forward, and asks for prayers for the community as it discerns this historic initiative.

Dr. Nemec said the plans for the new educational outreach “bring the University and the Diocese together to build on the historic achievement of the Catholic Church in contributing to the quality and availability of education in Fairfield County. There is much enthusiasm and commitment to this initiative which expands our relationship with the Diocese as we work to realize greater diversity equity, and inclusion, which is part of a much larger and ongoing effort to bring new hope and opportunity through education.”

The proposed initiative is part of “Pathways to Higher Learning,” a strategic partnership between the University and the Diocese of Bridgeport, designed to serve as a platform for access to the University’s resources for the people of the Diocese and the greater Bridgeport community. Launched on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (July 31) it consists of ongoing projects and joint initiatives to empower students through learning, mentoring, and service opportunities.

Current initiatives include The Bridgeport Tuition Grant program, which provides full-tuition scholarships for eligible students whose family incomes is less than $50,000 a year; the Community Scholars Program, which offers full-tuition scholarships for top-performing students, including those from diocesan schools; and the Aquinas Fellowship Program, which provides tuition support for diocesan teachers to attend graduate programs at Fairfield University. 

The University also holds a Financial Aid Night and a College Planning and Preparation Workshop to help families in the diocese plan for and apply to college. Since 2008, through the University’s Center for Social Impact, hundreds of University students have worked with diocesan partners such as Caroline House, Catholic schools, and the Thomas Merton Center to support program delivery through community-engaged learning courses and research projects. The University is in the process of developing programs to serve students from Bridgeport through writing camps, science camps, and engineering camps at the Diocese’s Catholic Center in summer 2022.

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