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Freshmen Welcomed to Sacred Heart, One of the Nation’s Fastest-Growing Catholic Colleges

Focus on superior education is key

Welcome Week's Massapalooza on the Quad

As freshmen began their college adventure at Sacred Heart University, news arrived that SHU has been ranked one of the fastest-growing Roman Catholic colleges in the country. A study conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education examined student enrollment at 111 Catholic schools from 2004 to 2014. Out of the 111 institutions in the publication’s master’s category, SHU ranked 10th for growth.

“To be recognized as one of the fastest-growing Catholic colleges is a testament to our hard work and desire to create an outstanding community for our students,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “Sacred Heart has amazing energy, and we are focused on providing a superior education.”

With 1,343 students, Sacred Heart’s class of 2020 joins the previous three years as the largest incoming classes in SHU history. Students were chosen from the largest applicant pool the University has ever had, comprising 10,108 applicants. “A Sacred Heart education is currently in great demand,” said Jim Barquinero, senior vice president, Enrollment, Student Affairs & Athletics. “Certainly our competitors recognize both our quantitative growth and qualitative excellence over the last five years. But most importantly, we are being recognized by teachers, guidance counselors and coaches in secondary institutions. Our reputation is growing exponentially through word of mouth.”

Sacred Heart is experiencing enrollment success while remaining selective, with an admission rate of 57 percent. The University also welcomed more than 150 transfer students this semester. This success relates to the addition of programs and facilities that respond to the needs of students and 21st-century careers, Barquinero said.

“Sacred Heart’s success is associated with a number of factors, including its commitment to staying aligned to its strategic plan, investing in facilities, programs and student services and having an enrollment team committed to finding the best students who will benefit from and contribute to the University, Barquinero added.”

In addition to its size, the new freshman class also distinguishes itself by its academic accomplishments, as evidenced by an average high-school GPA of 3.46. The students hail from 13 countries, 25 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. The most common states for enrollment are Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Ninety percent of the class members will live on campus.

Freshmen arrived with their families at the end of August, their cars packed with all the necessary supplies and clothes for a year away from home. Upperclassmen from various clubs, sports teams and organizations helped students move their belongings into rooms. Laundry bags, mirrors, food packages and more were loaded into grocery carts and then wheeled inside. Volunteers brought the belongings into the rooms while the new students signed in and filled out required paperwork.

“It’s been good,” said parent Cherrie Hylan of Bristol, whose daughter, Kimberly, was moving into Roncalli Hall. The assistance “has been nice; all this help makes it a lot easier.”

Kimberly Hylan, 17, said the upperclassmen took the bulk of her belongings, and she was just holding onto some fragile items. The political science major said she fell in love with SHU’s campus when she visited, plus she found the athletic programs appealing. She will start swimming next week.

While freshmen were thrilled to start their college careers, sophomores were antsy to get inside their brand-new home, Jorge Bergoglio Hall, named for Pope Francis. SHU’s new residence hall is the first university building to so honor the pontiff. The building, which took nearly two years to complete, houses 216 students in two-bedroom, four-person pods with a shared bathroom. The hall is staffed with six student resident success assistants and one professional resident hall director. The building includes a multipurpose fitness facility, a classroom/playroom for video game majors and avid players and a shared kitchen space on each floor. Continued development is just another example of SHU’s dedication and commitment to its students.

Other freshmen will arrive at SHU in the spring, after they return to the U.S. from Freshman Fall Abroad (FFA) programs. Four freshmen will participate in the FFA program at John Cabot University in Rome. This is the Office of Global Affairs’ third year running the program, which has increased by one student each year.

Eight incoming freshmen also participated in SHU’s pre-fall “Heart” at the Dingle, Ireland, campus for a week before classes started. They took a one-credit course and participated in cultural excursions, archaeological tours and hikes. They also got to know people and places in Dingle, and the experience gave students the chance to bond with fellow freshmen.

“The Freshman Fall Abroad programs are a wonderful opportunity for students who desire an international experience early on, plan to study abroad multiple times or may find it difficult to spend a full semester abroad later in their academic careers,” said Renee Cassidy, global campus recruiter. “Study abroad has numerous benefits, including personal development, experiencing new cultures and academic styles and gaining marketable skills.”

Another exciting addition this year is SHU’s inaugural physician assistant program cohort of 28 students. SHU is working with Stamford Hospital on this new 27-month program. The program is located in Stamford, on the second floor of Stamford Hospital’s Tandet Building next to the main hospital on West Broad Street. The 13,000-square-foot space has been completely renovated and includes a state-of-the-art lab, classrooms and a patient-assessment suite.

Sacred Heart’s facilities are growing along with the student population. Construction of the Center for Healthcare Education is progressing, and completion looks to be on schedule for the summer of 2017. The center, at 4000 Park Avenue, will offer students with aspirations in any health-care profession the best possible learning environment to ensure they are prepared to succeed. The new, three-story building will encompass 117,000 square feet and include medical gyms, individual treatment rooms, an aquatic therapy pool and state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms.

Sacred Heart also is building a new facility for radio station WSHU and the Department of Public Safety. Construction should start this fall. In addition, Sacred Heart will begin work on a residential complex on the site of the former Jewish Home on Jefferson Street.

To view additional photos from Welcome Week, click here.