FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University has appointed Matthew Shields as executive director for mission integration. He will oversee matters concerning SHU’s mission, campus ministry and community engagement.
“This role has many responsibilities, the most important being integrating SHU’s mission in all aspects of student life. Matthew has made it very clear that this is his top priority,” said Francis Origanti, senior vice president for mission & culture. “I am looking forward to seeing how he does this.”
Sacred Heart University is rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts. The University’s mission highlights the importance of social justice and educating students in mind, body and spirit to prepare them personally and professionally to make a difference in the global community.
Previously, Shields was the director for mission and ministry at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, NY, where he and the Sisters of Charity worked on volunteerism, spirituality and mission integration with students, faculty and staff. He was also a campus minister at William Paterson University in New Jersey, engaging students in service, self-awareness and spiritual activities.
In a question-and-answer interview, Shields shared why he thinks student engagement in community service is important.
Community service and volunteering are big parts of student life at Sacred Heart. Do you have any specific goals when it comes to increasing student involvement and/or community outreach?
I hope to build upon the tremendous programs already in place with student outreach in our local, regional and global community. The Princeton Review just reported that Sacred Heart University ranks number 21 for most engaged students in community service. My main goal as I begin is to learn the structures that are in place to create such a dynamic office and discover how I can use my background and skill set to ensure that we continue to develop programs that empower students.
Why is community engagement so important at the SHU?
Connecting with the region through community service has been essential to Sacred Heart University’s mission since its founding. Rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the University is called upon to be a prophetic presence in the world, especially with our sisters and brothers who are experiencing hardship both near and far. This work is not easy, and it is not quick. It takes empathy, patience, compassion and perseverance to build relationships and partnerships with people and communities. We also need to keep in mind that charity begins at home. Sacred Heart's vision reminds us that as we achieve prominence through academics, athletics, performing arts and other programs, we are also striving to cultivate a campus community that is authentically inclusive, caring and creative.
What distinguishes Sacred Heart from other universities?
Growth. In a challenging environment, Sacred Heart has been able to attract a record number of students over the last decade. At the same time, each incoming class is more distinguished. Such strategic growth offers Sacred Heart the unique opportunity to be an anchor in the community and an example of excellence in the field of higher education.
What was it about this position that piqued your interest when you applied? Have you held similar positions in the past?
Sacred Heart’s mission and vision, along with its solid structure of programs and innovative mindset, are what attracted me to this position. I have held similar positions in the past, most recently as the director for mission and ministry at the College of Mount Saint Vincent and as a campus minister at William Paterson University. Coming to Sacred Heart at this stage in my life feels like a homecoming. Twenty-four years ago, I began my undergraduate journey at Seton Hall University, studying religion, philosophy and Catholicism while being heavily involved with campus ministry. I hoped that I would be able to work professionally in a field where I could put my studies and passion into practice. Two decades later, I feel very blessed to have been able to do this work for so long and I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to serve and grow here at Sacred Heart.
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing private doctoral institutions in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers nearly 90 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has a campus in Dingle, Ireland, and offers online programs. More than 10,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education & Human Development; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 389 Colleges: 2024 Edition, and Best Business Schools: 2023 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliate station, WSHU Public Radio, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theatre. www.sacredheart.edu