Awards were given to a wide array of projects and initiatives, including a ground-breaking performance, over $100,000 in cost savings, a program to jump-start first-year students, and an overhaul of the Honors Program.
Innovation can come in many forms — both external and internal. On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, four standout Fairfield University initiatives were celebrated at the annual President's Award for Innovation Ceremony.
War Stories: A Veterans Project
Peter Van Heerden, director of the Quick Center for the Arts, and Sonya Huber, associate professor of English, brought to life a performance built through the courageous stories of a core group of veterans from Home for the Brave. The project was developed as part of Global Theatre: A Performance Series hosted in the Wien Experimental Theatre that explores the liminal space between art, theater, and performance. Veterans were given stipends to compensate them for the large investment of time required; workshop and rehearsal sessions for developing stories and crafting the performance occurred every weekday evening from 4 to 6 p.m. for three months. Sonya Huber conducted writing and journaling exercises with the veterans to develop cohesive stories for performance.
Van Heerden served as director, designing and overseeing the workshop threads to weave together the production of War Stories. Huber, who also directs the Fairfield Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing, engaged students in the MFA program and MFA alumni — including three veterans — to provide technical and advisory help. The group also participated in a mini-conference devoted to veterans’ writing that was offered to the cast and the public.
The Fairfield Challenge
In a collaboration between Student Affairs, the Dean of Students office, and Campus Ministry, the Fairfield Challenge, a pre-college program, identified first-year student leaders to jump start and facilitate their transition to Fairfield, as well as catapult them into other activities once the school year officially began. The program proved to be successful: of the 48 students who participated, there was a 94% retention rate, 31 students engaged in community service, six became Eucharistic Ministers, and 33 applied and were accepted into sophomore residential colleges.
The group included Karen Donoghue, Dean of Students; Allison Berger, Dean of Students Office; Charlie Sousa, Resident Life; Nicole Heller, Student Engagement; Katie Byrnes,Campus Ministry; Jack Delaney, Academic and Career Development Center; Rev. Doug Ray, S.J., Campus Ministry; and Rev. Mark Scalese, S.J., Campus Ministry.
Cost Savings and Productivity
Don Wagner, a University ITS technician, identified costs savings in excess of $100,000 per year by reviewing Fairfield’s service contracts. On his own initiative, he began work with telecommunications providers, reviewing current contracts, measuring utilization, and generally putting a trained eye to the telecommunications circuit, long distance, and support expenses. Wagner was chosen because he went above and beyond his job as a technician to analyze the University’s financial resources and save the University money, an effort encouraged by the 2020 initiative.
University Honors Program
Laura Nash, PhD, associate professor of Music, and Giovanni Ruffini, PhD, associate professor of Classical Studies, developed a dramatically improved Honors program involving an interdepartmental overhaul of the Honors curriculum and program benefits. Initiatives included recruiting new faculty to teach in the program, collaborating with Admissions to make positive changes to the Honors Admissions process, creating regular advising sessions with students and faculty, and participating in the American Jesuit Colleges and Universities Honors Programs annual meeting. As Nash and Ruffini’s work continues, and the program evolves, their efforts make Fairfield more attractive to the strongest undergraduate prospects and improve the academic experience for the highest performing students.