Fairfield University held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fairfield Bellarmine campus on Wednesday, November 2 at 3:30 p.m. The event took place at the former St. Ambrose Parish in Bridgeport, Conn.—the future home of the new campus. 

“This Bellarmine initiative is about our answer to the call to serve our communities, to be a university of the twenty-first century, which recognizes that nothing is more dignifying, nothing is more empowering, nothing brings a human more fully alive than higher education,” said Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD at the event.

The program will offer a two-year associate’s degree to lower-income and first-generation students from the Bridgeport region and surrounding communities. It is part of the university’s partnership with the diocese of Bridgeport, known as “Pathways to Higher Learning.” 

For more information on logistics regarding the initiative’s academics, as well as resources that will be offered, read The Rearview’s prior coverage

Plans for the initiative have since progressed. The university confirmed the name of the new campus as being in honor of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., the patron saint of Fairfield University. Renovation plans for the campus and facilities are ongoing as well, according to a university news release.

The first “cohort” of up to 100 students will be welcomed for the 2023-24 academic year, according to a university webpage. Students will complete 62 credits, preparing them for their future professional and educational endeavors. The application portal for Fall 2023 will open in November 2022.

The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano described the initiative as “a beacon of hope.” 

“May God bless it [Fairfield Bellarmine] with faculty, administrators and students who will understand that God-given dignity and the glory and majesty of God are calling them to be vehicles,” he said.

He further stated that this initiative may restore hope in the whole city that “good people can work together, for a greater good, church, state and community.” 

Other university personnel, including Fairfield Bellarmine Vice Provost and Executive Director Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. and Director of Admission Nakia Létang, shared their sentiments at the event.

“I consider it a true blessing to be a part of this great mission,” said Létang in her opening remarks. 

In an exclusive interview with The Rearview, Nemec drew attention to the barriers surrounding access to American higher education, describing his hope for the program to help minimize such barriers. 

“To be a great twenty-first century university means to innovate and to make sure that the broader population […] has access in ever more creative ways,” Nemec said.

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