Practically everything seems to be going Fairfield University’s way lately: The successful conclusion of a fundraising campaign that collected far more than originally expected; the largest incoming freshman class in its 75-year-plus history; a plethora of construction projects that are being completed on schedule; and, most recently, the top ranking in one of the nation’s most-watched surveys.
Presiding over the university’s expansion in nearly every category is “the most exciting thing about the past 14 months for me,” President Mark Nemec, who took over in July 2017, said.
Word is certainly getting out: Its incoming Class of 2022 numbers over 1,100, from a record 11,351 applicants. Included in those accepted are 150 Magis Scholars, more than double last year’s 65; those scholarships are given to the school’s top applicants, who have excelled academically while making the most of the opportunities presented to them throughout their high school careers. Selected students typically engage in top curriculum, including advance placement and honors classes, and involve themselves in a variety of extra-curricular activities.
University leadership also worked to increase Fairfield’s national scope, achieving a record number — 21 percent — of Class of 2022 students from outside the Northeast, up from 16 percent last year.
Nemec said he and other Fairfield representatives, including alumni, attend 50 to 75 events around the country each year, “from Stamford to San Francisco and all places in between.”
“They can be like small wedding receptions,” he said. “For me, it’s about making connections with the communities out there and it provides an opportunity for our alumni to attest to what Fairfield has meant to them as well as where we’re going.”
Where it’s going is up. Nemec said the school has completed its Fairfield Rising capital fundraising campaign. The largest such effort in the university’s history, it originally had a target of $160 million; upon taking office, Nemec extended it to $210 million. It concluded with $217.9 million.
“That’s another testament to how excited (donors) are about the trajectory and vision here and of our continued efforts to maintain the standards of quality we have,” he said.
The school also completed its latest residence hall, the $25 million, 63,169-square-foot Langguth Hall, in time for move-in weekend last week. Langguth will accommodate 220 sophomore students in its Ignatian Leadership Residential College. Residents will take specifically designed Ignatian Residential College courses that meet core curriculum requirements, as well as cultural, social, spiritual and mind-expanding events, while also meeting in small groups with faculty, staff, alumni or mentors.
Nemec said such residents will learn to address such life-building questions as “Who am I?” “Whose am I?” And, “Who am I called to be?” — all part of the reflective nature of the school’s fundamental approach to education.
He reported that construction remains on schedule for the new Charles F. Dolan School of Business, a $42 million, 80,500-square-foot building due to open in the fall of 2019. That building will include 16 classrooms and feature a simulated financial trading room; big data analytics lab; entrepreneurship center with lab space, visualization and simulation lab; and active learning and case-based classrooms.
Zhan Li, formerly professor and dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary’s College of California, became Dolan dean on July 1.
Most recently, the school was named the top regional university in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report, up from third-place last year. “We are excited and gratified that Fairfield’s commitment to modern excellence as a values-based, student-centric, outcomes-focused institution continues to be recognized by leading publications,” Nemec said.
“It all really comes down to three elements,” he said about the school’s upward trajectory. “Our commitment to our students leaving here with a capacity for lifelong learning they can use, beyond just being prepared for their first job; a recognition that education is about not only the mind, but also the body and spirit; and that Fairfield is not just an ivory tower.”