Fairfield University completes ambitious building and renovation plan with new residences for students set to open next week

Fairfield University completes ambitious building and renovation plan with new residences for students set to open next week

Image: 70 McCormick Fairfield University has just completed an ambitious, $60 million building and renovation plan of its residential facilities, one that not only adds 200 beds but, more importantly, in its design balances the need for the campus to be a place where students can grow academically, socially and spiritually.

The effort will reduce the number of students in rooms and apartments, while improving the overall quality of their living arrangements. At the heart of the 'Living and Learning' initiative, as it is known, is providing students - from freshmen to seniors - with a supportive network of peers, faculty and other mentors throughout their undergraduate years. The scope of these residences will support this effort. At the same time, the hope is to foster opportunities for students to discover their passions or deepest desires for life.

New Residence Halls and Renovations

Two new residential facilities built from the ground up - 70 McCormick and 51 McInnes Road - and two substantially renovated existing buildings - Dolan Hall and 42 Bellarmine Road - were developed to reflect the goals of this initiative. "As soon as students walk into these residential facilities, they will find they were designed with a great deal of intentionality," said Dr. Thomas Pellegrino, vice president for student affairs. "They are beyond a place to sleep and study."

Toward that end, these residences have spaces for reflection; spaces for one-on-one meetings with mentors or small group projects; and large rooms to gather with staff and fellow students, take part in academically enriching programs with faculty or just visit with friends. The common rooms are more aptly described in some cases as 'great rooms.' They are intended for class dinners before major lectures and events on campus and other festivities.

"At Fairfield, residential halls are not places where students go off into their corners to be cordoned off with roommates," said Dr. Elizabeth H. Boquet, associate vice president for academic affairs. "We try to help students feel comfortable in their own skin and give them the foundation to succeed. The renovations speak to our goals of helping students develop communities of all shapes and sizes."

70 McCormick and 42 Bellarmine

Located at opposite ends of campus, the new 70 McCormick, and the renovated 42 Bellarmine host two of the university's sophomore residential college programs - "Service for Justice" and "Creative Life," respectively. (Just off the lobby of 70 McCormick, students will be greeted by the words, 'To Act Against,' hand-carved by an artist into a stone wall as a tribute to the social justice mission of the building's residents.) Although 70 McCormick is a two-person to a room residence hall and 42 Bellarmine a suite style community, both have numerous rooms for students to 'live and learn' together. For example, 70 McCormick has large social rooms with kitchens on each floor, as well smaller study spaces at the opposite end of each floor. "The changes address lots of different aspects of a student's life, not just the academic," Boquet observes. "This is really what academic engagement is; this is part of the work we do here."

Throughout 42 Bellarmine are numerous community rooms, including the 'Fireplace Commons.' It also has an interfaith chapel, addressing the university's goal of widening its interfaith community. There have been services on campus for Muslims, Jews, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics. "I love the great room in 42 Bellarmine too," said Karen Donoghue, dean of students. "It's where kids can get together with guitars and where they can be in community. This is typical of what you'll find in other residential facilities on campus now."

Dolan Hall and 51 McInnes

Image: McInnes Hall The substantially renovated Dolan Hall and the new 51 McInnes Road are "beautiful, independent style apartments" that house both juniors and seniors, Donoghue said. Near the DiMenna-Nyselius Library, 51 McInnes boasts an inviting entryway with bluestone and slate, lovely architectural details throughout, and welcoming landscaping that seamlessly connects the building to the neighboring Village Apartment Complex. It also has a large bike room top encourage students to peddle away their carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, Dolan Hall apartments' open style living concept, with kitchen and living rooms combined into one large space, have some of the best views of the Long Island Sound in town. With full size refrigerators and ovens, the kitchens also feature big islands with stools so burgeoning cooks will have plenty of company.

Both 51 McInnes and Dolan Hall will ultimately serve as a primer for life after Fairfield.

"These apartments will give students a feel for being independent and a taste for what they will encounter after graduation," said Dr. Pellegrino. "In regard to housing options for juniors and seniors, there is now truly something for everyone - singles, the Townhouses and these apartments with their shared and private spaces."

First Year Programs

Image: 70 McCormick lounge As for the first year students, living in the Quad, there is a strong connection between one's coursework and their residential lives as seen with the Cornerstone and First Year Experience programs. Now in its second year, the Cornerstone program, for example, has students enrolled in a particular course housed together with their classmates. A Cornerstone class might be a core curriculum course or one tied to an introductory major, such as General Bio or History 30. "Both programs are about helping students transition into Fairfield," said Dr. Joseph DeFeo, associate dean of students and director of student development. "They get to meet students who share an interest while discovering the many cultural communities on campus. Along the way, the students might meet friends that they will have all four years here or more. "

Green Projects

Reflective of Fairfield's commitment to green projects, sustainable elements have been incorporated into both new and existing residences. Highlights include a 'green' roof at 70 McCormick, high efficiency washers and dryers, and 'dashboards' at Dolan Hall and 51 McInnes. Displayed on large flat screen TVs in lobbies, these lively dashboards track student energy usage by apartment.

"We're hoping to make students cognizant of their electricity and water consumption," said David Frassinelli, associate vice president of Facilities Management and chair of the Campus Sustainability Committee. "Competitions between apartments as to who can use the least amount of energy are in the works as is an eventual rollout of dashboards in all the residences. It's all about making the students more environmentally aware."

The entire initiative speaks to the Jesuit institution's longtime goal to make the entire campus an engaging classroom.

"We strive to provide deliberate experiences for our students all four years," said Dr. Boquet. "We do this so they may engage productively, feel connected and sooner lay the groundwork to make their college experience a fuller and richer one."

Images: Exterior of 70 McCormick, Exterior of 51 McInnes, Community room in 70 McCormick

Posted On: 09-02-2011 11:09 AM

Volume: 44 Number: 24