Sacred Heart University was the brainchild of Catholic leaders in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Bridgeport’s bishop, Reverend Walter W. Curtis, spearheaded the mission to provide the community with affordable Catholic higher education. In 1963, the school enrolled its first class of 173 students, taught by a core of nine professors.
From the beginning, Sacred Heart University (SHU) set out to be different from run-of-the-mill religious universities. Its administrative and teaching staffs are largely made up of laity, and the school cultivates close ties with the Bridgeport community (SHU is actually located in nearby Fairfield, Connecticut, although the Bridgeport border is very close). SHU has seen enrollment jump to 5,700 full- and part-time students since its inception.
With only one large building hosting most of the classes and common undergraduate spaces, SHU has made efforts to expand its campus in the last few decades. It added its first dorm in 1991 and has since built nine more residential buildings. In 2006, General Electric CEO Jack Welch donated a significant sum of money to SHU’s College of Business, which changed its name to the John F. Welch College of Business in gratitude.
Sacred Heart's Fairfield campus is compact, with its classrooms, theater, common spaces, and even some dining halls all packed into the sprawling Academic Center. Nearby, there is a library, several residence halls, the athletic center and gym (the William H. Pitt Center), and a few parking lots —- although students claim that there never seem to be enough spots. SHU doesn’t offer much green space, so students head to the Mahogany Room in the Academic Center to chill.
While the Fairfield campus anchors SHU, there are several satellite classes, mostly for commuters, adult students, and those looking to explore more hands-on options in alternate locations. The other campuses are: the Cambridge campus, the Oakview campus (both in Trumbull, CT), the Griswold campus (in Griswold, CT), the Stamford campus (Stamford, CT), the Luxembourg campus (in the European country Luxembourg), and the Dingle, Country Kerry campus (in Ireland).
Sacred Heart is located in Fairfield, Connecticut, close to the border the town shares with Bridgeport. While Fairfield is a typical Connecticut suburb, Bridgeport is by contrast a little grittier. The surroundings themselves are fairly unremarkable —- there are a few malls, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, and retail centers that students frequent. But for Sacred Heart students, the best aspect of their school’s location is its centrality. By car, SHU is about a half our from New Haven, a little over an hour from New York City, and less than three hours from Boston. Public transportation makes it easy to head for the big city on the weekends.
During Senior Week, all seniors move into a freshman dorm building, where they spend the week hanging out and partying before graduation.
Lydia Hearst-Shaw (attended) is a socialite and model.
Kevin Nealon (1975) is a television and film actor best known for his roles on Saturday Night Live and Weeds.
John Ratzenberger (1969) is a television and film actor best known for his role as Cliff on the NBC sitcom Cheers.
John Roberts (transferred before his sophomore year): current Supreme Court chief justice.
For a mid-sized school, Sacred Heart fields a surprising number of Division I varsity teams —- 32 in total, 17 for the ladies and 15 for men. The Pioneers participate in a slew of conferences, including the Northeast Conference, Atlantic Hockey conference, Colonial Athletic Association, Eastern College Athletic Conference, and the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. Nearly 800 students play on one of the varsity teams, and the rest rally around popular squads that have brought home a number of conference titles. The men’s basketball team has been particularly successful, making back-to-back bids for the NEC Tournament Championship in 2007 and 2008 (although they lost both times). A lack of athletic resources on campus can be frustrating for smaller teams, such as men’s and women’s hockey, both of which have a hard time drawing student support to their off-campus games.
Sacred Heart University operates the only American-accredited MBA program in the European country of Luxembourg.
Every SHU student is given a laptop as part of their tuition and can trade it in for an upgrade during their junior years.
SHU estimates that 1,200 of its students, staff, and faculty volunteer more than 31,000 hours every year. Most of the time is invested in Bridgeport, although their combined efforts span the globe.
SHU is the first Catholic university in the United States to have a staff largely comprised of lay people.
Sacred Heart has had a hard time creating enough residential space for their growing student body. New dorms are in the works, and the school has contracted some off-campus apartments to accommodate upperclassmen. Housing options include:
Elizabeth Ann Seton Hall: a freshman residence offering double- and triple-occupancy rooms.
Thomas Merton Hall: a freshman residence offering double- and triple-occupancy rooms.
Angelo Roncalli Hall: a freshman/sophomore residence with suite-style rooms.
Christian Witness Commons: a primarily sophomore residence spanning three buildings—the Jean Donovan Hall, Oscar Romero Hall, and Dorothy Day Hall.
Scholars Commons: a sophomore/junior residence comprised of four buildings —- Augustine Hall, Thomas Aquinas Hall, Theresa of Avila Hall, and John Henry Newman Hall.
Parkridge: a building approximately one mile off-campus offering apartment and townhouse-style rooms for upperclassmen.
Taft Commons: an apartment building for upperclassmen located approximately three miles off-campus.
Oakwood Garden Apartment: an off-campus apartment building for upperclassmen who meet certain requirements, academic and otherwise.
Park Royal: a building approximately two miles off-campus that offers four-person apartment suites for upperclassmen.