New Student Convocation at Sacred Heart University’s William H. Pitt Center – photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek
First-year students experienced all “the feels” as they embarked on their first days of their college experience at Sacred Heart University.
Their academic experience officially kicked off with SHU’s annual New Student Convocation in late August as the class of 2022 walked up the hill and into the William H. Pitt Center led by the marching band. The new students heard inspirational speeches from their peers, administrators and faculty encouraging them to do their best, take advantage of the many opportunities that will be presented to them and learn from their mistakes over the next four years.
Sacred Heart’s largest and most academically talented group of Pioneers in University history arrived with their families to move into their new residences just days earlier. They unloaded vehicles that were filled with everything they needed for a year away from home and gratefully accepted assistance from upperclassmen from SHU’s many extracurricular clubs and sports teams. The volunteers brought boxes of clothes, food, school supplies, toiletries and much more into rooms while the freshmen signed in and filled out required paperwork.
Tara Hagerman, 17, of Long Island, N.Y., briefly waited in the Toussaint lobby before being taken to her room by an orientation leader. Hagerman said she decided to come to SHU because she fell in love with the campus. “I had a relative who went here and had a positive experience, so I wanted to see what it was all about,” she said. “It’s beautiful. Everything is brand new and everyone is so nice.” Hagerman, a nursing major, said she’s looking forward to getting a good education. She’s excited to meet new friends, join the club volleyball team and get involved in other activities as well.
First-year student Adrianna Braid, 17, of Bergen County, N.J., was on the fifth floor of Toussaint Hall unpacking her belongings with her parents. She said she was most excited to meet new people and try new things. The exercise science major plans to join the exercise science club and intramural sports.
There are 1,496 students in the class of 2022, chosen from an applicant pool of 10,619, the largest in SHU’s history. This is a 73 percent increase in full-time freshmen enrollment dating back to the fall of 2012.
“As the past several years have proved, an academic education and student experience at Sacred Heart University is in demand and sought after, and recent inclusion on The Princeton Review’s list for ‘Happiest Students’ validates our belief that SHU provides an outstanding academic and social experience,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, executive director of admissions. “More than 10,000 students applied to the institution hoping for an opportunity to join the SHU community this year, and our admissions committee sought to identify students who demonstrated academic achievement, intellectual and professional integrity, who value compassionate service to others, and who took leading roles in the communities in which they serve. We couldn’t be more excited in presenting and welcoming our class of 2022 to our campus community. We also appreciate the many high school counselors, teachers, coaches, alumni and current students and families of SHU whose word of mouth and positive support help fuel this demand.”
The new freshman class distinguishes itself by its academic accomplishments, as evidenced by an average high school GPA of 3.5. More than 340 freshmen are National Honor Society members. The class also includes eight sets of twins and triplets and 125 legacy students, showing that previous family members valued their SHU experience and encouraged others to attend.
The freshmen hail from six countries and 26 states. A total of 2,919 undergraduate students will live on campus, the highest ever. As more residence halls go up on SHU’s upper quad, more and more students will have a residential experience.
The class of 2022 has diverse academic interests—popular majors include biology, communications studies, exercise science and nursing. A total of 480 new Pioneers plan to study in the College of Arts & Sciences, 292 students plan to study in the College of Health Professions, 250 will pursue careers in the College of Nursing, 419 will take courses in the Jack Welch College of Business and more than 50 students will study in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education.
Enrollment in the STEM fields within SHU’s College of Arts & Sciences increased by 16 percent over last year. This growth in enrollment is supported by the launch of new academic programs over the past few years in molecular and cellular biology, coastal and marine science, neuroscience, biochemistry, computer engineering and game design and development.
The Welch College of Business also experienced record enrollment success, with a nine percent increase in new student enrollment over last year, supported by the addition of a new academic program in hospitality, resort and tourism management. SHU’s acquisitions of Great River Golf Club in Milford and the former General Electric Headquarters in Fairfield, now known as West Campus—along with our property in Dingle, Ireland—will provide real-world experience to students in this program.
There was also significant growth in students pursuing interdisciplinary studies, which is the undergraduate academic path for aspiring elementary teachers who intend to continue on to the Farrington College of Education and earn their master’s degree in teaching as part of SHU’s innovative five-year program. Applications to the College of Nursing increased 12.7 percent over last year, supporting the national trend for a demand in undergraduate nursing programs. According to the inaugural rankings from NursingSchoolsAlmanac.com, SHU’s undergraduate nursing program ranks as third in the country among Catholic universities, behind only Villanova and Georgetown Universities. Admission to the program reflected that rank, with only a 40 percent acceptance rate.
Sources of success
Sacred Heart’s reputation is reinforced by the independent recognition it continues to receive. The Princeton Review recently recognized the University as one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education and included SHU in its Best 384 Colleges guidebook. It also placed SHU on its lists of “Happiest Students” and “Most Engaged in Community Service,” each of which comprises only 20 schools from around the country.
The University’s game design and development program has garnered national recognition as well, ranking among the best in the country by The Princeton Review at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Sacred Heart launched a new undergraduate academic program in cybersecurity this fall, to continue to support the growth of STEM offerings.
Facilities ready for students
Sacred Heart’s facilities are growing along with the student population. Construction crews have been working at the former Jewish Senior Services site for more than a year to turn the land—now called SHU’s Upper Quad—into a residential village. Last semester, SHU opened its newest residence hall on the Upper Quad, Toussaint Hall, where many first-year students settled.
The University continues to work on making West Campus an innovation hub. It provides an expansion for the School of Computer Science & Engineering, which is focused on computer engineering, computer gaming and cybersecurity, to develop programs in STEM fields such as health and life sciences, science and technology.
The 35,000-square-foot first floor of the west building at West Campus has been renovated into high-tech classrooms, computer labs and conference rooms. There is a cafeteria for grab-and-go food options and plenty of room for students to lounge and study. This year, the Farrington College of Education will have graduate classes for teaching preparation and education leadership in the classrooms. Undergraduate and graduate classes in computer science, information technology, gaming, cybersecurity and computer engineering also will take place there.
The makerspace—a large area on the first floor where engineering students can experiment, build and develop projects—is scheduled to be completed next fall. The students are using another room in the interim.
Construction on the building’s 35,000-square-foot second floor continues, preparing that space for classrooms for the Welch College of Business.
Construction also continues on the new Bobby Valentine Athletic Center, next to JP’s and Pioneer Park. The state-of-the-art fitness facility will serve the entire student population. At 57,000 square feet and three stories tall, it will be one of the most advanced athletic facilities in the nation, complete with a suspended indoor track, a bowling center, an 18-bike spin center, a 45-foot climbing wall and exercise and weight-training rooms. The anticipated opening is August 2019.