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Overview & History Of Sophomore Residential College Program

In the fall of 2002, Fairfield University launched its first sophomore residential college with a grant from the Lilly Foundation. The goal was to develop a dynamic model of education which, from a wide array of disciplines and perspectives, was able to cultivate a seamless learning environment which integrated the intellectual, affective, and spiritual dimensions of students’ lives. In doing so, Fairfield University created a vision guided by our Ignatian tradition and paradigm, a student-centered approach that attends explicitly to the students’ formation needs by posing critical questions related to who they are, which communities to which they belong, and by providing space for reflection of what brings joy and sorrow to their lives.

For fifteen years the Sophomore Residential Colleges Program has brought together the concept of living and learning in manner unique to the Fairfield University experience. This program’s distinctively designed academic courses, purposeful residential living experiences, and reflective mentorship encourages students to think aloud in the presence of their peers and mentors inside and outside of the classroom.

Fairfield University is Catholic Jesuit Institution in part by the way in which we employ Ignatian pedagogy—a student-centered form of teaching that asks students to reflect as they learn, and to put their knowledge into action. As a Catholic institution of higher education, we welcome people of all faiths and of no particular faith to engage in discernment and promote the common good. The Sophomore Residential College Program is similarly a place where our students can reflect on their deepest truths and ask critical questions of themselves and their peers.

Important Dates

November 15 Sophomore Residential College Applications Open
February 3 Sophomore Residential College Applications Closes
February 12 Residential College Decisions go out
March 23 Residential College Housing Lottery

Goals Of The Program

Residence Life Goals Infographic

Students applying to the Sophomore Residential College Program have the opportunity to explore fundamental questions of identity, community and purpose in any of the three Residential Colleges—Ignatian, Creative Life, or Service for Justice. Each College examines these questions, bringing their own unique lens to the process, and students can choose the experience that resonates with them.

The intentionality of the Residential Colleges Program allows students the opportunities through their classes, mentor communities, and residential programming to explore the enduring questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Whose am I?
  • Who am I called to be?

This is starting point for a fruitful intellectual, social, spiritual, and discernment journey for sophomore students and clearly aligns with the Catholic Jesuit educational philosophy and way of proceeding.  The Residential College Program merges student life and academics for the purpose of achieving an integrated educational experience.  Retreats, communal dinners, academic courses, residential programming and service projects all contribute to this goal as well as empowering students to develop a strong sense of community and friendship.

Inspired by the Catholic Jesuit approach of reflection and action, students acquire the tools they need to become leaders, creators, and change agents. Together, they learn to live more fully and make a difference in the world around them.

Academic Experience

The academic courses are a fundamental component of the Residential College Program experience. The courses provide students the opportunity to integrate their lived experiences with their academic learning, as they take one course per semester with other students in their residence halls. The courses are from a variety of disciplines and are not additional to a student’s regular schedule—they fulfill major, required core, or elective credit. Each course addresses one or more of the guiding questions and therefore relates to the mentoring and residential experience. Courses’ special elements might include field trips to events on or off campus, study sessions or lectures within the residence hall, or special guest speakers.

Residential College Courses Provide Students with Opportunities to:

  • Connect classroom learning with their lived experiences.
  • Be challenged intellectually to expand their perspectives, beliefs, values.
  • Learn the value of critical and personal reflection.
  • Enjoy course-related events and conversation with peers and faculty outside of the classroom.


Sample Courses:

Creative Life:

EN 163 Literature of Illness and Healing

What is it like to suffer a stroke, contend with cancer, deal with depression or live with a crippling disease? While biomedicine may clinically treat such conditions, it is to literature that we turn to gain a humanistic understanding of the emotional and spiritual impact of illness on wounded storytellers and on the dedicated doctors and nurses who care for them. Readings in various literary genres- memoir, essay, poetry, fiction, drama- and films with medical themes will also explore issues of diversity, noting how gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation affect the illness experience.

PH 101 Intro to Philosophy

The aim of the course is to introduce students to the vocation of wonder and questioning by engaging students in discussions about some of the basic questions of philosophy. Students will read texts from historical and contemporary writers, and will be asked to develop their own skills of thinking, reading, and writing critically. 

SA 134 Digital Photography

This course covers basic techniques of digital photography, including print production, the development of concepts and theory in photography, the relationship of photography to other visual media, and the study of historical and contemporary precedents. In addition, students will explore the manipulation of photographic images in both black and white and color through the use of Adobe Photoshop.

Ignatian Leadership Residential College:

AE 291 Business Ethics

This course seeks to enhance each student’s ethical perception to prepare you for ethical issues you will encounter in your careers, to enhance each student’s awareness of societal injustices, and to improve each student’s ethical decision-making and communication skills.

EN 172 Literacy and Language

This service learning course examines individual experiences with literacy and language, both your own and those of others. The course considers the power and the costs of literacy, as depicted in drama and fiction. Throughout the semester, the service learning experience will connect what you are learning in class to the real context of a local elementary school.

HI 270 Global Humanitarian Action

This course surveys the history of global humanitarian action in the face of famine, war, plague, natural disaster, refugees and other crises, since the middle of the nineteenth century. We will focus on intervention by European powers, the United States, the international community, and non-governmental actors. Special focus in case studies will be on 20th century war, famine, and genocide. Each student will research a case study with a focus on potential points of life-saving intervention.

Service for Justice:

RS 101 Exploring Religion

This course invites students to explore the religious dimensions of human experience, emphasizing the themes of scripture, community and practice. This section examines the major questions addressed by most world religions, with special emphasis on how they are answered in a specific major tradition. 

SO 162 Race, Gender, and Ethnic Relations

This course analyses sociological and social psychological dimensions of race relations, ethnic interaction, and the changing role and status of women. It focuses on the American scene but also examines problems of women and minorities in other parts of the world and their importance for world politics. It also considers what sociologists and social psychologists have learned about improving dominant/minority relations.

EN 126 American Social Protest Literature

This course explores the long tradition of non-violent social protest in American literature. We examine how many writers have challenged their contemporaries to become aware of important issues - race, women's rights, Native American activism, the environment, war, and poverty. Students keep a journal in which they reflect on the literature and develop strategies for changing themselves and the world around them. A final project asks students to consider ways to raise awareness about a social issue at the University or in the larger community. 

Residential College Faculty Cohort (Fall 2018)

  • James Biardi
  • Jill Bodach
  • Elizabeth Boquet
  • Jocelyn Boryczka
  • Betsy Bowen
  • Rachelle Brunn
  • Michael Cavanaugh
  • Michael Ciavaglia
  • Daniel Cosacchi
  • Ive Covaci
  • Yun Edwards
  • Bose Godbole
  • Maggie Labinski
  • Philip Lane
  • Marti LoMonaco
  • David McFadden
  • Eileen O’Shea
  • Louise Palmer
  • Jessica Planas
  • John Slotemaker
  • Aaron VanDyke

Dr. Aaron VanDyke, Academic Chair for the Residential College

Mentoring Experience

An integral part of the Residential College Program experience is the Mentoring Community program, which offers our sophomores an exciting, unique opportunity to partner with caring and committed mentors during this year of exploration and self-discovery. Faculty, staff, University alumni and local community members across a wide population of vocations and backgrounds serve as companions to students. Using the Ignatian lens of reflection and discernment to spark discussion and share ideas, mentors and students explore the Frederick Beuchner concept to find “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s hunger.”

 Monthly meetings in small groups of 6-8 students provide a trusting, communal experience.

Accompanied and guided by adult mentors, students will:

  • Explore one’s sense of vocation and purpose in an intentional setting.
  • Be given opportunities for student-centered conversations on one’s identity and shared experiences with peers and adults.
  • Examine and challenge one’s beliefs, attitudes and actions in a safe, supported environment.
  • Develop an awareness for the value of Ignatian reflection and discernment in daily life.
  • Identify and participate in community engagement experiences, further developing an ability to serve our world as leaders, creators and agents of change.
  • Build a diverse community of friends.

For more information about the Residential College Mentoring Community program please contact: Marianne Neville, mentor coordinator for the Sophomore Residential Colleges.

Residential Experience

The students’ living environment is heart of the Residential College Program, providing students with meaningful experiences that integrate the theme of each college.  Students have the opportunity to live with their peers and friends who share similar interests and diverse passions. Students participate in an abundance of programs, events, and activities put on by the Residence Life staff, Residence Hall Association and each other.

Below are examples of programs, activities, and services of Residential College Program in which students can engage:

  • Weekly Community Socials
  • Fall & Winter retreats
  • Monthly dinner series with guests and professors
  • Monthly forums
  • Local Service Opportunities
  • Service Trips
  • Broadway trips
  • And much much more...

Description Of Each Residential College

Service for Justice

Goal of the Service for Justice Program

The Service for Justice Residential College, housed in 70 McCormick Hall, is a community rooted in social justice and service that explores the questions of identity development, positive sense of self and social responsibility. Through reflective exercises students are asked to intentionally examine their own personal identities and culture based on their living and learning experiences. By intentionally examining social justice issues, students explore how they are called to become change agents. Through reflection, action and service, students are challenged to see how they can use their privileges to help those who are oppressed. 

Students will explore the following three key questions based on the activities presented in the different areas of the program.

  • Who Am I?
  • Whose Am I?
  • How am I called to serve justice?

Through participation in the Service for Justice Residential College, students will be able to:

Identity Development

  • Explore and develop a greater understanding for one’s personal identity particularly gender identity, racial/ ethnic background and socioeconomic status.
  • Integrate multiple aspects of their identities in creating a positive sense of self
  • Discern how aspects of personal identities relate to one’s ethical principles, personal values and the larger societal constructs.

Sense of Belonging

  • Explore one’s personal belief system and/or philosophical tradition to search for meaning and purpose.
  • Articulate how one’s values and principles shape perspectives of living in the community.
  • Demonstrate an interest in and ability to build relationships with others who are similar and different from oneself.
  • Develop strategies that promote wellness and explore how these strategies impact decision making as well as personal and academic success. 

Social and Academic Responsibility

  • Rooted in social justice and love, students will serve as responsible citizens, gain an understanding for those who suffer, and take action for change.
  • Discern ethical principles and personal values in light of academic and residential experiences.
  • Address societal and personal developmental concerns through and across different academic disciplines.
  • Gain knowledge, ask questions, and develop skills through critical intellectual inquiry.


Ignatian Leadership Residential College

Goal of the Ignatian Leadership Residential College Program

The Ignatian Leadership Residential College, housed in 42 Langguth Hall, provides a distinct opportunity for students to examine different dimensions of their lives from a variety of perspectives and leadership roles inside and outside of the classroom. Through the program, students address not only their gifts and passions but also the confusion, anxiety and obstacles that are an inevitable part of their collegiate experience. Students reflect on some of life’s biggest questions as they explore how strengths, challenges, and worldviews impact their decision-making process. While gaining an awareness of their passions and identity, students practice and enhance leadership skills that call them towards the service of a greater good within society.  

Students will explore the following three key questions based on the activities presented in the different areas of the program.

  • Who Am I?
  • Whose Am I?
  • How Am I called to lead?

Through participation in the Ignatian Leadership Residential College, students will be able to:

Knowledge of Self

  • Explore the boundless possibilities in finding meaning and purpose in the broadest sense.
  • Discover key values that lead to true personal fulfilment.
  • Identify unique gifts and talents and how these contribute to the common good.  

Purposeful Connections

  • Integrate one’s intellectual, social, and spiritual dimensions to reflect on how to lead a purpose driven life. 
  • Cultivate a habit of reflection based on life experiences.
  • Examine values and connections and how they inspire deep self-awareness and lifelong self-development. 

Community Engagement & Social Responsibility

  • Utilize experiences to be men and women for others within a global community.
  • Experience a broader sense of leadership through the lens of the Jesuit values (Cura Personalis; Mind, Body and Spirit; Men and Women for Others; and Magis).
  • Foster a sense of humility, authenticity and interpersonal acceptance that promotes leadership in the service of others.


Creative Life Residential College

Goal of the Creative Life Residential College Program

The Creative Life Residential College, housed in Loyola Hall, embraces creativity as an essential element of learning and developing one’s worldview. This program guides students to examine a greater awareness of themselves as creative individuals while exploring fundamental questions of identity, community and vocation. Students are empowered to identify their authentic ideas and potential while exploring creative solutions to life’s obstacles and opportunities for the purpose of discovering how to live an inspired life. Creative Life is a bright enthusiastic community which encourages synergy from all academic disciplines, engaging in a cross-medium and multi-disciplinary environment.          

The following questions frame the students’ exploration in the Creative Life Residential College:

  • Who Am I?
  • Whose Am I?
  • How am I called to live a creative and examined life? 

Through participation in the Creative Life Residential College, students will gain an understanding to:

Mind, Body, Spirit

  • Discern how identities and potential contribute to becoming a more responsible, active, confident, and inspired individual.
  • Reflect on personal context and history to develop a holistic sense of self.
  • Examine one’s way of proceeding, and practice integrating one’s thoughts and actions to make a difference. 


  • Encourage a passion for excellence through a creative lens.
  • Develop one’s full potential and cultivate competence for personal and professional next steps.  
  • Apply gifts and creativity to imagine new ways to overcome challenges and obstacles. 

Men and Women for and with Others

  • Explore one’s relationships and how they affect oneself, others, and society.
  • Think outside of the box to examine how talents and gifts call one towards the service of others.
  • Using a creative lens, develop understanding and acceptance of the dignity and talent of others.
  • Collaboratively and creatively address problems and needs of local, national, and global communities.

Sophomore Residential College Program Contacts:

Jodie Fitzpatrick, assistant director

Aaron VanDyke, PhD, academic chair 

Marianne Neville, mentor coordinator

Laura Boliver, area coordinator, Creative Life 

Kaitlin Muttitt, area coordinator, Ignatian Leadership

Shawn McCabe, area coordinator, Service for Justice

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