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Action Lab

After a semester of research, collaboration, and learning, the Action Lab Project Teams of Capital Community College and Trinity College students shared their findings at the Liberal Arts Action Lab Digital Poster Fair this past Monday. From crafting the right research questions to developing their own WordPress websites, the Action Lab is a unique opportunity where teams of students and faculty from two institutions collaborate to answer questions posed by Hartford community partners. These students have worked incredibly hard this semester to cross the finish line and we couldn’t be prouder! If you missed the poster fair, take a look at the project summaries and links to each team’s website below.

We want to thank Trinity’s Megan Brown and Capital’s Jeff Partridge as well as the faculty fellows, our community partners at Active City, Lilly’s Sin Barrera/ Lilly Without Barriers, SINA Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, and CT Coalition to End Homelessness, and everyone who came out on Monday night for their overwhelming show of support for these Hartford research teams. 

Absentee Landlord

Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA) asked about the prevalence of absentee-owned, small multi-family properties in the South End to help them strategize about community development plans, and Capital Community College’s Lena Wright answered the following questions:

  • “How many 2 to 3- family properties in the South End of Hartford are owned by absentee landlords?”
  • Are absentee-owned properties cared for differently than owner-occupied properties?

For a community development nonprofit like SINA, answers to these questions are critical for their future real estate acquisition strategies. SINA’s current strategy is to buy vacant properties owned usually by public entities, such as the city of Hartford or the federal government, or property held in foreclosure by banks. The research Lena has presented here will inform SINA’s interest in acquiring 2-4 family properties owned by absentee landlords.

This is a responsibility I did not take lightly. I have had some experience and exposure as a volunteer arbitrator in landlord and tenant disputes for non-payment of rent, evictions, and destruction of properties which interested me in this topic. But for this project, we needed specific data about properties we could only get by going out and talking to people who live there. When I started, I didn’t know what the end result was going to be, but the more I got into the more I wanted to do it.” – Lena Wright, Capital Community College

Learn more on the Absentee Landlord site here:

Student Researchers: Lena Wright (CCC)

Community Partner: Melvyn Colon, Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)

Faculty Fellow: Emily Yen, Trinity College

Hurricane Maria Relocation
Community partner Lydia Herrera, Olivia Painchaud (TC ’21), Maria Martinez (TC ‘22), Christian Gardner (CCC),

Integrating the Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria in Hartford was a long process and one that was not at all smooth. Having now settled almost all of the families, community partners at Lilly Sin Barreras/Lilly Without Barriers proposed that this Action Lab team conduct retrospective research on how families were resettled and document the lessons learned about what went well and what went wrong during relocation.

This project was super exciting to me and that there was diversity on the team… and I argue this all the time, that the next generation after mine, my daughters and my granddaughters, are so passionate and so committed to finding out what’s happening in our communities. So the passion, and just what [Christian] said right now, and the fact that we’re here so we’re gonna be part of history together, that’s awesome.” – Lydia Herrera, Lilly Sin Barrera

In the video above, Lydia Herrera of Lilly Sin Barreras and team member Christian Gardner (Capital Community College) discuss their process of working together on this project. Learn more on the team’s website at:

Student Researchers: Christian Gardner (CCC), Maria Martinez (TC ‘22), Olivia Painchaud (TC ‘21)

Community Partner: Lydia Herrera, Lilly Sin Barreras

Faculty Fellow: Sarah Raskin, Trinity College

Youth Homelessness
Jeremiah Rodriguez (Capital Community College) and Karolina Barrientos (TC ’22) present their findings to Carl Asikainen of the CT Coalition to End Homelessness

CT Coalition to End Homelessness has made significant inroads engaging students throughout the state in understanding their rights and the rights of their peers under McKinney-Vento, the federal legislation which functions as the homeless student’s Bill of Rights. One of their challenges is to figure out how to scale the work they have done on a school-by-school basis throughout the state, so they asked this Action Lab team to look at the work they’ve done and develop a model for reaching schools in the Greater Hartford area.


In the video above, CT Coalition to End Homelessness’ Carl Asikainen and Clare Donahoe ’22 discuss their partnership and how Carl plans to use the team’s web content to help educate teachers and administrators in Hartford about youth homelessness. Learn more on the team’s website:

Student Researchers: Karolina Barrientos (TC ‘22), Clare Donohoe (TC ‘22), Clare Blanchard (TC ‘22), Jeremiah Rodriguez (CCC)

Community Partner: Carl Asikainen, CT Coalition to End Homelessness

Faculty Fellows: Stefanie Wong, Trinity College

Youth Sports

As an organization, Active City believes that not enough children in Hartford receive the benefits of participation in youth sports and recreation, and because of the decentralized nature of the organizations who run sports and recreation programs, there is littler formal data to help understand how Hartford compares to others in physical activity and participation in programs. Active City asked this Action Lab team to quantify this problem and possibly get a better understanding of why it is the way it is in order to facilitate the development of effective initiatives to increase participation.

Erick Peña (TC ‘20), Katie Marlow-Benedick (TC ‘20) present

I really enjoyed working with the community partner on this and really just being able to be engaged with the community. That’s been like my favorite part about Trinity being able to take classes in the City and really get outside of campus. So, we really just worked hard to do surveys all around Hartford [for Active City]. And I found this great opportunity to do online surveys as well to try to reach representative populations in Hartford.” -Erick Peña ’20

Learn more about the Youth Sports project on the team’s website at:

Student Researchers: Gayler Grace (CCC), Lily Everett (TC ‘21), Erick Peña (TC ‘20), Katie Marlow-Benedick (TC ‘20)

Community Partner: Margaret Girard, Active City

Faculty Fellow: John Michael Mason, Trinity College

In the Liberal Arts Action Lab, Hartford community partners define problems facing the city and collaborate with teams of students and faculty from Capital Community College and Trinity College to research and publicly share possible solutions. The goals of the Action Lab are to strengthen the city and its role in the region, spark social innovation, and support civic engagement and sustainability. View past projects and learn more about applying as a community partner, student, or faculty fellow at



This semester Assistant Professor of Theater & Dance Peter Kyle established a Community Learning collaboration that brought together college students from Trinity College and Saint Joseph’s, high school students from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts (GHAA) and ACES Educational Center for the Arts (ECA), professional dancers from the greater Hartford community, and the Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance’s Alberto del Saz to celebrate the work of Alwin Nikolais (1910-1993). The project culminated in performances of a full program of Nikolais’ repertory at the Trinity Fall Dance Concert.

In the lead up to the Fall concert, Kyle also organized a panel discussion at the Connecticut Historical Society with Hartford area Historian Steve Thornton and two veteran Nikolais collaborators, Ruth Grauert and Phyllis Lamhut, pictured below.

Peter Kyle with Nikolais collaborators Ruth Grauert and Phyllis Lamhut and Hartford area historian Steve Thornton at the Connecticut Historical Society.

“It’s thrilling to be reminded how we can use the arts, in this case Nikolais’ creative genius, as a touchstone for inspiring Trinity students and so many others to expand on their own artistic aspirations within a larger educational context.”  – Peter Kyle, Trinity College Assistant Professor of Theater & Dance

Additionally, Kyle worked with various community partners and veteran Nikolais collaborators Ruth Grauert, Phyllis Lamhut, and Alberto del Saz (Nikolais/Louis Foundation for Dance) to host a master class and performance at Saint Joseph’s 5×5 Festival, an improvisation master class at Trinity, a lecture-demonstration for 80+ HMTCA high school students.

“Not only was it an incredible honor for our students to have the opportunity to perform these historical works, it was awesome for students to have the chance to connect with those from other schools.” Mariane Banar-Fountain, Director of Dance at Educational Center for the Arts

Peter Kyle and Ari Basche, Program Manager at Trinfo Café, Trinity’s off-campus technology and community space.

To ready the campus and community for the Fall Dance concert, Kyle also set up exhibits of photos documenting Nikolais’ work by noted dance photographer, Tom Caravaglia, around Trinity and Hartford: Saint Joseph’s, the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts,, the Liberal Arts Action Lab, and on Trinity’s main campus in the Mather Art Gallery.


English 494 and Studio Arts 150 students present poem and photo responses to Nikolais’ works at the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience

Trinity students in Professor Clare Rossini’s ENGL 494 Poetry Workshop and Professor Andrew Worth’s STAR 150 Digital Documentary Photography classes were one of the first groups on campus to see the restaged Nikolais works. Kyle invited to attend and respond to rehearsals for the performance of one of the Nikolais pieces, Crucible. Afterwards, the students created original poem and photo responses that they displayed and presented on at the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience on campus.

Thank you to Peter Kyle, the many collaborators, courses, and community partners, the Austin Arts Center, and to Trinity College and the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation for supporting this project. Photos courtesy of Peter Kyle, Alex Fishbein, Larkin De Laria ’21 and John Atashian.

At Trinity College we define Community Learning courses as those that include perspective taking and mutually beneficial relationships with community partners. If you are interested in building a Community Learning component into your course, or you believe your course should be designated  as a Community Learning course, contact Director of Community Learning


Community Service

This semester, the Trinity Homelessness Project Community Service student group has been out volunteering in Hartford almost every weekend. From moving furniture with Journey Home, to serving breakfast and donating to the Backpack Nutrition Program at Hands on Hartford, this group has steadily been growing and Hartford community partners are taking notice. This student-led group was founded by Kyle Fields ’21 last year, and has since been picked up by Erin Evangelista ’20. 

Todd Kawahara ’22, Erin Evangelista ’20, Lara Ferris ’23, Anastasia Hanifin ’23 work with Trinity Dining Associates to prep sandwiches for the Winter Boot Party.

The holiday season is a particularly important time for the type of service Trinity Homelessness Project provides. Over the past few weeks, they prepared hundreds of sandwiches and boot donations for Footwear With Care’s Annual Winter Boot Party in Downtown Hartford. This event provides winter boots and shoes along with socks, mittens, gloves, hats, flu shots and medical checkups for Hartford residents in need during the colder season. Additionally, Trinity Homelessness Project students spent their Friday afternoon working with Chartwell’s Trinity Dining Associates to prep 400 sandwiches to be passed out during the event.






Thank you Erin Evangelista ’20, Joe Barber and Beatrice Alicea, Chartwells, community partners and many more who have made these partnerships possible.

The Office of Community Service & Civic Engagement creates future civic leaders by engaging students in building and maintaining strong, sustainable community partnerships in Hartford, as well as educating and involving them in a range of broader social issues. To learn more and/or get involved, visit the CSCE web page here.