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Transformed University Welcomes Students for Fall Semester

First days at the Fairfield campus see hundreds moving in, a convocation and a ribbon cutting

Move-in Weekend, New-Student Convocation and the grand opening of the Bobby Valentine Health & Recreation Center

Sacred Heart University’s two campuses looked a little different to returning students this year. Buildings that had been under construction were finished, departments had moved and, of course, there was an entire class of new faces.

The new Bobby Valentine Health & Recreation Center is up and running; construction is almost finished on two residence halls in the Upper Quad; and the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology (WCBT) has moved to West Campus, which also is home to a makerspace and innovation hub. Changes are certainly happening and, needless to say, it is a great time to be a Pioneer.

The class of 2023’s academic experience officially began with SHU’s annual New Student Convocation just days after the freshmen Pioneers moved in. They sat with new friends in the William H. Pitt Athletic & Convocation Center as they listened to inspirational speeches from their peers, administrators and faculty. Alumnus Brian Hamilton ’87 reminded the new students that college is an intellectual and spiritual journey. He also told them to be kind, especially to their parents.

University President John J. Petillo told the students to be respectful, to be engaged and to be curious. “This is your time to flourish,” he said. “Welcome to SHU.”

Other speakers encouraged the freshmen to get involved and move outside their comfort zones.  


Most freshmen moved onto campus over the course of two busy days. They were greeted by members of SHU’s extracurricular programs and sports teams, who were on hand to help them unload vehicles. Volunteers delivered bags and boxes to students’ rooms while the freshmen filled out required paperwork. Parents moving in sons and daughters at Toussaint Hall said they were impressed by the organization of the move-in system as they waited in line at the elevator with additional supplies.

Matt Frungillo, 18, of Verona, NJ, stood outside Toussaint Hall as volunteers helped take pillows and other belongings out of his family’s car. The hospitality major said members of his family attended SHU and he basically “knew I was coming here since day one. It just feels like home,” Frungillo said.

Allyson Ferreira of Westchester, NY, moved into Bergoglio Hall. The health science major said SHU was the first school she visited, and she instantly fell in love. “I visited other schools, but they weren’t like Sacred Heart,” she said. The 17-year-old already is involved in SHU’s dance ensemble and hip-hop group and is eager to join student government and other clubs.

Newcomers’ statistics

There are 1,631 students in the class of 2023, chosen from an applicant pool of 11,648. The University experienced growth in enrollment across all colleges, especially the Isabelle Farrington College of Education, which saw 48 percent growth through its interdisciplinary studies major. Sacred Heart also experienced a 28 percent increase in new-student enrollment at St. Vincent’s College.

“More than 11,000 students from over 40 states and 60 countries applied to SHU, hoping for the opportunity to join our dynamic community,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, executive director of admissions. “Our admissions committee sought to identify students who not only achieved outstanding academic success, but demonstrated a commitment to take on leading roles outside the classroom and who value service to others in their community. Sacred Heart’s recent inclusion as number 10 on The Princeton Review’s list for ‘Happiest Students’ validates our belief that we continue to enroll students who best reflect the characteristics that ensure a successful collegiate experience. This recognition, along with the many other recent national endorsements, are an acknowledgment of what we have known for some time: Sacred Heart University is a national leader in providing its students a tremendous, comprehensive, collegiate experience for a remarkable value.”

There are 536 National Honor Society students in the class of 2023, which has an average grade point average of 3.55. O’Sullivan said he is particularly proud of the class’s uniqueness and leadership abilities, as evidenced by 51 former high school class presidents. Other examples of accomplished students include a creator of two mobile applications for his high school; a member of the Ecuadorian National Soccer Team; several nationally ranked Irish step dancers including an “All Ireland” dancer; a track-and-field coach for Special Olympics; and a participant in the Genius Olympiad International Science Research Competition.

There are 137 legacy students among the freshmen, proving that previous family members valued their SHU experience and encouraged their younger relatives to attend.

Students hail from 27 states and 17 countries. Sacred Heart also welcomed about 200 transfer and part-time students.

Eighty students of the class of 2023 plan to study in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education, 287 will study in the College of Health Professions, 290 will attend the College of Nursing, 435 students will pursue majors in the WCBT, and another 541 freshmen will study various programs in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Nearly 50 new full-time faculty members have been hired to accommodate the growing student population. Their positions are spread throughout SHU’s schools and colleges. Many are dedicated to teaching core and general education courses.

Facilities ready for students

The University community celebrated the grand opening of the Bobby Valentine Health & Recreation Center with a ribbon-cutting event. Students flooded the facility’s parking lot, where they played with SHU-branded Frisbees and enjoyed cotton candy and popcorn. Faculty, staff, community members and friends of the University joined the crowd to hear speeches from administrators and others who encouraged students to try out the rock-climbing wall and bowling alley, to have a refreshing drink in the juice bar and get a physical workout after exercising their brains in the classroom.

Bobby Valentine, executive director of SHU athletics, helped raise funding for the facility. The former MLB manager and player said he is a “really lucky guy” who has often been in the right place at the right time. He said he was lucky when the Red Sox decided not to honor the second year of his contract, which made him available when Petillo asked him to be SHU’s athletic director.

Petillo said that in the six years Valentine has been athletic director, he’s always been available to the student-athletes. “Bobby carries SHU on his sleeves,” Petillo said. “He’s like living swag.” The audience laughed and applauded Valentine for his dedication to the University.

The ceremony concluded with tours of the three-story, state-of-the-art facility.

At the West Campus, construction on the 35,000-square-foot second floor is also complete. The space is dedicated to classrooms and innovation for the WCBT. The college moved its operations from the (now called) Frank and Marisa Martire Center for the Liberal Arts to West Campus over the summer. The College of Arts & Sciences moved from the Main Academic Building to the Martire Center—a state-of-the-art building with modern classrooms, video studios, a motion-capture lab and more.

Recently, SHU entered an agreement with Verizon for the creation, management and operation of an innovative, coworking space on West Campus’s West Building second floor. The partnership is the first time Verizon partnered to locate a coworking space on a college campus. This space will be a hub for innovation teams from large and small companies; for entrepreneurs who want to test their ideas, grow their businesses and work collaboratively in a supportive environment; and for individual professionals who want to work in a dynamic office environment.

This innovation community will draw on SHU faculty, staff, students and other resources to build an academic-focused environment that attracts local startups, entrepreneurs, corporations and other forward-thinking organizations and individuals.

The WCBT faculty has moved into newly renovated offices on the first floor of the East Building of West Campus. Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and finance labs were also built there.

The first floor of West Building includes the makerspace that will allow students from the School of Computer Science & Engineering to experiment, build and develop projects. The STEM-focused area also will support and encourage computer engineering, computer gaming and cybersecurity students get creative. 

Two residence halls on SHU’s new upper quad are expected to be ready for move-in next semester.


Sacred Heart continues to be recognized by outside sources for its growth and excellence. The Princeton Review recently identified the University as one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education and included SHU in its Best 385 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.

Additionally, Kiplinger and MONEY Magazine recognized SHU as a great college value.

In the spring, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified SHU to Carnegie’s newly named Doctoral/Professional Universities category. This puts the University into a new, higher-level classification tier next to such schools as Hofstra, Elon, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara and Pepperdine. The classification also acknowledges SHU’s doctoral degrees and research.