Shortly after graduating magna cum laude in 2010 with dual degrees in Political Science and Business Administration, Mike Fazzino boarded a plane headed to Kigali, Rwanda. While he’d travelled extensively during his undergraduate career – including stints in Honduras and Israel – this trip would prove to be different.
The ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty organization he had worked with while an undergraduate at SHU, invited him to see U.S. funded programs that fight extreme poverty and preventable disease in the small, East African nation. Co-founded by singer Bono of the band U2 and backed by 3 million members worldwide, the organization is bi-partisan and works closely with African policy makers and activists to fight extreme poverty in the developing world. Fazzino gladly accepted their offer to see these programs at work.
“Rwanda was a transformative experience for me,” says Fazzino of the trip that would help launch his career. On the ground, he saw programs that help poor farmers grow substance and cash crops, develop energy infrastructure, and provide lifesaving anti-retroviral treatments to fight AIDS. These efforts have enjoyed wide support, he notes. “Over the past decade, Republicans and Democrats alike have supported critical programs like The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” he noted in the Hartford Courant - all for less than 1% of the total U.S. budget.
Not long after arriving back from Rwanda, Fazzino formally joined ONE’s team in Washington, D.C. to coordinate the Campus Challenge program and subsequent lobby and advocacy days for ONE members who participate in the program. “College campuses are a natural place to engage with students who are still shaping their world view,” he said. “Given its emphasis on social justice, Sacred Heart was a natural fit for the program.”
Michael had brought the ONE Campus Challenge program to Sacred Heart in 2007, where it attracted more than 1,000 members and was consistently ranked as one of the most active chapters in the nation. Fazzino coordinated many projects for the chapter, including a massive letter writing campaigns to then Senators Dodd and Lieberman to support U.S. funded international development programs. “We were really evangelizing foreign development – so few people know of the unbelievable return on investment of these programs.”
After three years and two promotions, Fazzino is now responsible for project-managing U.S. focused campaigns at ONE as well as the office of the U.S. Executive Director. ONE’s current campaign on energy is particularly exciting for him, having seen infrastructure for methane gas extraction being built on Lake Kivu, Africa’s sixth-largest lake. “Seven in ten people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity,” he says, citing ONE’s work. “That’s a huge barrier to success. Without electricity, you can’t refrigerate lifesaving vaccines. Students can’t study after dark. I wouldn’t have done nearly as well at SHU if I had been forced to spend my nights studying by flashlight or a streetlamp.”
Fazzino did indeed do well at SHU – with interests going well beyond international advocacy. He founded the on-campus thrift store – a community partnership which re-sold student’s donated items in an effort to eliminate waste and provide affordable products to low-income residents in Greater Bridgeport community, which went on to win the 2010 State of Connecticut Higher Education Community Service Award. He also wrote award-winning papers such as “Millard Fillmore: Inspired Life, Uninspired Presidency,” and is quoted in Government and Politics Professor Steven Michel’s “The Case Against Democracy.”
If past success is any indicator of future performance, Fazzino has an exciting path ahead of him. He intends to continue working in international development, and has a particular interest in bridging the divide between the private and public sectors. He also notes that he’ll continue giving back to the community in innovative ways. “Sacred Heart helped open a lot of doors for me, so I’m delighted to be in the position to begin to return the favor.”