Excitement reigned at Sacred Heart University recently as 1,420 first-year students arrived on campus to begin their college studies.
The incoming class constitutes the largest and most academically talented group in SHU history, surpassing the records set by the freshman classes from the past four years. They were chosen from a pool of nearly 10,000 applicants.
“A Sacred Heart education is highly regarded and sought after,” said Jim Barquinero, senior vice president for enrollment, student affairs and athletics. “Certainly our competitors recognize both our growth and qualitative excellence over the last several years. But most importantly, teachers, guidance counselors and coaches in secondary institutions are recognizing us as leaders in higher education. Our reputation is certainly growing exponentially through word of mouth.”
The new freshman class distinguishes itself by its academic accomplishments, as evidenced by an average high school GPA of 3.5. More than 200 freshmen are National Honor Society members. The class also includes five sets of twins and a set of triplets.
The group has diverse academic interests—popular majors include communications, media arts, engineering, criminal justice, biology and psychology. More than 500 new Pioneers plan to study in the College of Arts & Sciences, 555 will pursue careers in the College of Nursing and College of Health Professions, and more than 350 will attend the Jack Welch College of Business. In addition, nearly 80 new students in the College of Arts & Sciences will continue on to study for graduate degrees in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education.
Over 1,400 freshmen have come from 10 countries and 24 states ranging from California to Maine. Nearly 92 percent of the freshmen will live on campus. The University also welcomed 145 transfer students and 47 part-time students, an 88% increase over last year’s fall part-time enrollment.
Sources of success
Sacred Heart’s reputation is reinforced by 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 382 Colleges guidebook. It also placed SHU on its lists for “Best College Theater” and “Most Engaged in Community Service,” each of which contains only 20 schools from around the country. (Four hundred freshmen intend to participate in service learning programs, and more than 200 freshmen plan to participate in performing arts programs.)
Barquinero said SHU’s success also relates to new programs and facilities that respond to the needs of students and 21st-century careers.
“Sacred Heart’s continued success is associated with a number of factors, including our commitment to staying aligned to our strategic plan, investing in state-of-the-art facilities like our new Center for Healthcare Education, our programs and student services, and having an admissions team deeply committed to finding the best students who will benefit from and contribute to the University,” he said.
Recently Moody’s Investors Service upgraded SHU’s rating to A3 from Baa1, saying it acknowledges the University’s strong financial performance. In addition, last year Standard & Poor’s (S&P) raised SHU’s rating to an A. Only three other private colleges in Connecticut—Yale, Wesleyan and Trinity—have an A rating or higher from S&P.
“These ratings provide confidence about our careful stewardship of tuition dollars,” Barquinero said.
Facilities ready for students
The newest Pioneers arrived with their families at the end of August, their cars packed to capacity with all the supplies for a year away from home. Upperclassmen from SHU’s sports teams and clubs helped the freshmen move their belongings into the residence halls; clothes, mirrors, toiletries, food packages, wall décor and more were loaded into grocery carts and then wheeled inside. Volunteers brought the belongings into rooms while the freshmen signed in and filled out required paperwork. Unloading and organizing came a little later.
Freshman Lindsey McSweeney, 17, of New York, was moving into Roncalli Hall with the help of her parents. “I like the way students respect each other,” McSweeney said after checking in. “It’s a really welcoming community, not cliquey like some college campuses.” McSweeney, who plans to study nursing, said she’s most excited to meet new people and experience new things.
Valanta Lemieux of Rhode Island helped her eldest daughter move into Roncalli. “I’m very excited, but I’m going to miss her so much,” Lemieux said. “I really love the school. It’s comfortable here. I think she’s going to be very happy.”
Sacred Heart’s facilities are growing along with the student population. The Center for Healthcare Education is ready for students in the College of Nursing and College of Health Professions. The new, three-story, 120,000-square-foot center sits on 8.7 acres at 4000 Park Ave., just a mile from SHU’s main campus. It will offer students with aspirations in any health-care profession the best possible learning environment to ensure they are prepared to succeed. The center houses laboratory and classroom facilities designed to support a collaborative, team-based learning environment. There also is an immersive, acute-care simulation lab with video and data-capture capability to provide enhanced feedback on performance in a clinical setting.
Construction crews have been working at the former Jewish Senior Services site for the past several months to turn the land—now called SHU’s Upper Quad—into a residential village. The Jewish Home’s Bennett building will be renovated first and will become the University’s newest student residence, Toussaint Hall.
The crews also are creating open outdoor spaces and terraced steps in amphitheater style, to enable students to walk up and down between the Upper and Lower Quads. The Upper Quad also will feature a retro, ’50s-themed diner named JP’s, after SHU President John J. Petillo. As is tradition with all the dining areas on campus, members of Student Government came up with the name. The diner, located in between the William H. Pitt Center and Pioneer Park, will seat approximately 110 people inside and 16 people outside. It will accept dining dollars, offer a take-out menu and stay open until 3 a.m. on weekends. When it opens in October, it will be one of only two diners on a college campus in the Northeast.
Meanwhile, the University continues to work on making West Campus (the former General Electric headquarters) an innovation hub. Throughout the year staff, faculty and student activities will move into the new space.
In addition, construction began this summer on a new athletic facility next to Pioneer Park. The building will have bowling alleys, climbing walls, sports simulators and a fitness center.
Construction also proceeds on Sacred Heart’s new facility for radio station WSHU and the Department of Public Safety.