On the Edge

Photographs Courtesy of Fairfield University

As a critical-care nurse working at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital, Lynn Babington’s early nursing career was a crash course in what she calls “medical translation.” Her first charges included cardiac surgery patients. “You have to be super organized and think fast,” says Babington, now a Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Fairfield University. She thrives amidst the complexities of academia. As chief academic affairs officer, she is as well-versed in why it’s imperative for an engineering or business major to partake in the humanities-based core curriculum as in the need for the $35 million four-story Center for Nursing and Health Studies. The big picture on campus is a rapidly evolving one.

In July the Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, who has served as Fairfield University’s president for twelve years, announced he was stepping down. He will move on to become superior of the LaFarge House Jesuit Community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As of this writing, a national search is underway for his replacement. University officials have allowed it’s even possible his successor could be the first non-Jesuit leader in its seventy-four-year history.

Babington, a former Fulbright Scholar who worked as an administrator at Northeastern University before coming to campus four years ago, is optimistic whoever is ultimately chosen will find the higher learning institution on a strong academic and fiscal course. She notes von Arx leaves campus with a vast legacy, which includes crafting the school’s long-term strategic vision with an eye on constantly incorporating Jesuit values—with their strong emphasis on the formation of the whole person—into every element of its academic offerings.

“We are in a great place financially and academically, so it’s a wonderful time for a new leader to come in,” she says. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Fairfield U No. 2 of regional universities in the North. Babington adds that the university’s largest capital campaign in history, Fairfield Rising, is expected to meet its $160 million target. In September, a grand opening was held at its state-of-the-art Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Sports and Recreation Complex, known as the RecPlex. The Master Plan calls for new facilities that include the nursing and health sciences center, a new residence hall and expanded student center.

Babington notes that Fairfield is becoming increasingly attractive to undergraduates.

This fall 1,072 freshman arrived at Fairfield University, the largest such class in its history. Babington offers that if the school has a challenge, it’s that more students are saying yes to its admission offers. “It’s good news, but you have to find them all housing,” she notes. (This explains the new residence hall on the drawing boards.)

As the administrator who takes the lead in shaping the core curriculum for the school’s five major academic programs, Babington says this about the qualities she values most in the typical eighteen-year-old freshman: “I really like to see people willing to step out of their comfort zone. I like to see them get involved in a sport or club, trying something that might be a little different for them. I like to see an engineering major take a class in something that has absolutely nothing to do with the major—maybe a theater class—simply because it is interesting to him or her. It’s encouraged here, and you don’t get that everywhere.”

She adds, “I see hopeful and engaged people who are excited about things like sustainability or civil rights issues. They are young people who are of service, which is one of the things I think makes a Jesuit education really special.”

“I really like to see people willing to step out of their comfort zone.”



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