It is my pleasure to nominate Vincent Rotondo ’23 as Fairfield University’s Newman Civic Fellow for 2022-2023. Vincent is a visible and influential campus leader who has developed a passion for social justice and humanitarian issues, specifically around the global refugee crisis. Vincent has demonstrated his leadership skills across several sectors of the University, including as a Senator and Fairfield University Student Association’s Chair of Academic Affairs, Resident Assistant in our prestigious Ignatian Residential College program, and member of the University’s Honors Program. In Spring 2021, Vincent leveraged these relationships across the University to revive the Recycling for Refugees program, which collects donations of furniture and household goods from students as they move out of University housing that are then used to furnish the homes of newly settled refugees in our local community. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program collected several truckloads of goods gratefully accepted by our local refugee resettlement agency, the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI). Vincent’s goal is to expand and institutionalize this program at Fairfield University, while developing an informational campaign and art installation to raise awareness among his peers about the local implications of the global refugee crisis.
My project stems from the impact Professors Julie Mughal and Christopher Madden's Finding Answers honors seminar had on me. This course exposed me to the narratives of many refugees throughout history, including the present day; it enabled me to realize that individuals, not just the government, can take feasible steps to help others from enduring atrocity. A living testament of this is visible in Alan Gratz's braided novel Refugee. Readers follow a six-year-old little girl, Ruthie, and her brother, Josef, escaping Nazi Germany. Their story concludes with a grown Ruthie hosting other refugees and their families. Gratz concludes by stating, “Josef had died so Ruthie could live, and one day welcome Mahmoud and his family into her home.” Once one learns about narratives like Ruthie and Josef’s, the thought of not acting is unacceptable to them. My social action project, "Recycling for Refugees and Other Community Organizations" aims to collect donations to provide refugees and other community organizations with items needed to furnish their new homes. I also plan to organize an art installation that will raise awareness of the global refugee crisis and the acute needs of refugee families around the world.