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We’ve had a few new team members since the summer. Abby Fisher Williamson joined as CHER’s director in July, Gabby Nelson joined as Assistant Director of Urban Engaged Learning in October, and Cynthia Mena began as Trinfo.Cafe’s Program Manager in November. Trinfo.Cafe’s student social media specialist Wendy Salto ’22 interviewed Abby and Gabby to learn more about them. Read on to meet these two new team members. We look forward to further introducing Cynthia in our next newsletter, scheduled to come out in January.

Get to know Abigail Fisher Williamson, Director of CHER.

You are new to the role as Director of CHER. What made you want to take on this role?

I have always loved the parts of my job that allow me to connect students with all that Hartford has to offer. By uniting several programs under one center, CHER synergizes the College’s community engagement activities and more effectively tells the story of these important efforts. I was excited to follow this work in its early years and, as director, I welcome the opportunity to work with the amazing CHER team to take it to the next level.

Tell us about your work at Trinity and in the community. What does a day in the life look like for you?

As a professor, I have roles in teaching, research, and service. This semester, a central focus of my teaching is working with two students who are conducting community-engaged research. One student is examining how Hartford responds to Latinx migrants/immigrants and how the city’s efforts shape civic and political incorporation. The other student is working with a partner organization to interview community health workers about how these lay experts can play a role in informing health policy. In terms of research, I’m currently conducting a major survey examining how Americans form and change their views on whose health deserves society’s investment. And in terms of service, as director of CHER I spend my days meeting with the CHER team and thinking about how we can build and strengthen partnerships with the city of Hartford.

What are your interests and passions?

I’ve always been fascinated by how communities come together to collectively address new opportunities and challenges. I enjoy learning what motivates diverse sets of people to come together and get meaningful things done. My research on how communities respond to new immigrant populations provided some insights, building on a long history of social science literature. The best way to support strong communities that effectively bridge differences is to gather diverse sets of people to work on shared projects as equal partners. Given structural racism and socioeconomic inequality, this work isn’t easy, but it’s the kind of work that I hope CHER can aspire to.

What are some projects your office has done people should know about?

This fall, I’m proud of many efforts that have come together despite the obstacles of the pandemic, including the following:

  • First, Professor Rebecca Pappas and Director of Community Learning Erica Crowley have worked together to host virtual performances open to the public through the theater, dance, and music courses “Performing Hartford” and “Intro to World Music.” This program allows students to interact directly with local artists, and provides a venue for artists at a time when performing is severely limited.
  • Second, Assistant Director of Community Service and Civic Engagement Beatrice Alicea successfully transitioned the JZ-AMP mentoring program to an online format that will allow Trinity students to continue to mentor our cohort of middle school students, regardless of what the pandemic brings in the coming months.
  • Third, student leaders at Trinfo Café are working with Director Carlos Espinosa to create new curricula to serve the needs of Hartford residents during the pandemic. Specifically, these programs address Parents Working From Home and Children’s Remote Learning.

What are some things that you hope to accomplish this year despite COVID-19?

Off-campus community engagement is limited this year in order to do our part to keep the whole Hartford community safe. That said, CHER is still doing important work on and off campus. On campus, we’re offering support and leadership opportunities for community-engaged students and helping faculty pivot community learning efforts to a remote format. In Fall 2020, we’re pleased to be offering 16 community learning classes, involving remote engagement with Hartford partners. Trinfo Café is open and serving our neighbors with access to digital resources, and new technical curricula. And we’re transitioning many community service efforts online, including through our remote volunteering database (, where partners can post opportunities, and students can sign up to serve.

What else should we know about you?

I’m happiest when hiking with my husband and twin daughters, reading a novel in our hammock, trying a new restaurant, seeing a new play, or wandering through a thought-provoking art exhibit.

Get to know Gabby Nelson, Assistant Director of Urban Engaged Learning.

This is a brand new role at Trinity. How does this role work between two centers and what are you most excited about?

This role is shared between the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) and the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS). I’ve worked at CUGS for the past two years on coordinating events, student grants, the China summer program, communications, and more. I’m excited to continue working with my super colleagues in CUGS while joining the dedicated CHER team to work on communications and data projects.

Tell us about your work at Trinity College. What does a day in the life look like? 

A typical day for me is a mix of working on communications projects, emailing with students about grants and programs, hosting events, coordinating with coworkers on plans for future projects, miscellaneous administrative tasks, and sneaking in a little time to work on my urban policy research. I’m a student in the master’s public policy program at Trinity, so my days often extend into the evening when I have class. 

What are your interests? 

I am interested in researching urban policy issues, especially related to urban housing revitalization and neighborhood revitalization. Outside of work and school, I grow a garden of about 2,500 square feet of flowers, vegetables, and herbs at an urban farm in Hartford.

What are some projects you hope to accomplish with your new role? 

I am currently in discussion with the CHER team members about the best way to update our newsletter and website to meet our current needs. Getting those updates established will be some of my first longer term projects with CHER. I’m looking forward to creating new pathways for communication and collaboration between CUGS and CHER as well. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 

My favorite part of my job is being surrounded by incredibly smart people everyday. I learn so much just by being around my colleagues. 

What else should people know about you? 

I teach yoga through Trinity Recreation on Fridays from 12:00-12:45. The class is open to all members of the Trinity community. Here is the recurring zoom link if you’d like to join: The last class for this semester is November 20th. We’ll resume again next semester.





The Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement and their associated student groups usually try to get off campus and into the community as much as possible. Community service has looked different this year. Student groups pivoted to remote and socially distant  formats for their service and advocacy work. Some of the work has taken on new forms, while other projects are annual events that have been rethought.

A screenshot of the Habitat for Humanity evictions crisis event.
A screenshot of the Habitat for Humanity Evictions Crisis Event. Salmun showed attendees a data visualization map that Trinity students helped create depicting evictions in CT.

Trinity’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity hasn’t been able to build houses this years, so they switched to a focus on advocacy. The group hosted a virtual lecture on the Covid-19 eviction crisis. Writes Ananya Ravishankar Usharani, president of the chapter,

“We at Trinity Habitat were able to host our first event of the semester, learning about and discussing the COVID-19 eviction crisis with CT Fair Housing Center staff attorney, Salmun Kazerounian. As someone who represents victims of housing discrimination, Salmun shed light on the intersecting issues of race and gender in housing discrimination and eviction cases, using mapped data to help visualize the crisis. Given our platform and commitment to being anti-racist, we believe it to be imperative to actively promote meaningful and sustainable efforts at education and advocacy. Looking forward, we are planning more such events which address housing issues and social justice.”

Students from ACES donated candy to Vernon Street residents to continue the Halloween on Vernon Street tradition. Virtual fun and games were uploaded to their YouTube channel as well.

The Annual Community Event Staff (ACES) pivoted Halloween on Vernon Street,  a 30 year annual campus and community staple, to a remote format this year. “We came into this semester being quite positive that we wouldn’t be able to hold this event at all, but after sitting with it for a few days, we eventually decided that this was something we couldn’t let our community go without,” says Elizabeth Jensen ’22, a leader in ACES. They set up a YouTube channel  with games, activities, and crafts that was publicized to our community partners. “Given that campus conditions are constantly changing with Covid-19, I am really proud that our club members were so willing to participate and put so much thought into their videos,” writes ACES leader Michaela Anton ’22. If you have young ones who are still looking for fun Fall games and crafts, their YouTube channel is now a treasure trove, thanks to their efforts to put together a fun virtual event. The Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement and ACES made 100 bags of candy that were donated to the residents of Vernon Street (east of Broad Street) for their own Halloween celebration.

Cleaning up a community garden in Hartford.
La Voz Latina students participated in a socially distant clean up at a Summer of Solutions garden in Hartford on October 31, 2020.

Students from La Voz Latina participated in a clean-up day at a Summer of Solutions community garden on Zion Street in Hartford. They made great progress in getting the garden cleaned up for winter in a safe and socially distant way. 

Finally, the annual Thanksgiving Drive is still happening this year as well. This year’s drive will benefit the Expeditionary Learning Academy at Moylan School (ELAMS) and Hands on Hartford. Trinity community members can donate the cost of one or more food baskets (approximately $60) or provide a basket of non-perishable goods based on the provided shopping list. More information on how to donate can be found here.



Community Service, News, Trinfo.Café

Fostering engaged voters among the Trinity and Hartford communities was an important focus for us this fall. “We create and provide opportunities for community service and civic engagement in part for students to understand that citizenship is an active existence that transcends mere national identity.  It is a philosophy and a way of life that demands positive involvement in the civic sphere by all of us.  Free and fair voting is one of the foundational tenets of such a system,” writes Joe Barber, Director of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement. Barber, along with Carlos Espinosa, Director of Trinfo Cafe and the Office of Community Relations, served as a leader of TrinVotes this year.

TrinVotes is a nonpartisan initiative to encourage the Trinity community to vote by making voting more accessible and by educating the community about upcoming elections. Abigail Fisher Williamson, Director of CHER, served on the TrinVotes committee this Fall as well. 

A student holding up a ballot in front of the Chapel.
A student holds up a ballot in front of the Trinity College Chapel. Photo credit: @TrinVotes Instagram.

In addition to the diligent work of the TrinVotes coalition, students in the Community Action Gateway first year seminar course “Envisioning Social Change” worked with community partners on voter engagement projects this semester. Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Stefanie Wong said, “The course allows students to gain a deeper understanding of social inequity and systematic oppression and learn from and alongside community organizations in the Hartford area that are working to challenge inequities and work for social change.” (Quote from Trinity news article by Emma Sternberg ’21). Three out of five groups in the class worked with community partners focused on voting. Students worked with the Hartford Votes-Hartford Vota Coalition, Blue Ribbon Strategies, and Moral Monday CT  on social media projects related to voting. 

We’re proud of the work our team and students put in this semester to ensure everyone in our community was informed, aware, and engaged in the election this year.



CHER’s mission continues to focus on strengthening educational partnerships between Trinity and the Hartford community. Due to the pandemic, CHER’s efforts will take a different form during Fall 2020.  With the well-being of the Hartford community in mind, CHER’s community engagement activities will be largely online, rather than in person. Specifically:

  • All off-campus Trinity-sponsored engagements by students must have specific academic or co-curricular purposes, be approved by the College, and be supervised by a Trinity faculty or staff member. During all activities participants will be 6 feet apart while wearing masks. These engagements will be extremely limited, especially in the first few weeks of the Fall semester.
  • To ensure the health and safety of the Hartford and campus community, there will be no on-campus visitors, with the exception of essential visiting personnel, through September 20th. After that date, outside groups may be allowed on campus on a limited basis with approval. Approvals will be considered when the College has developed an understanding of how the virus may be affecting the community. If you are a community partner working with students this semester, meetings must occur via phone, Zoom, or another online platform at least through September 20th, and likely beyond.
  • Trinfo Cafe will reopen Monday, September 21, to allow access to internet and office resources, but without additional events.
  • The Liberal Arts Action Lab programming is paused for Fall 2020 and the downtown campus at 10 Constitution Plaza is currently not hosting visitors or booking events. For questions on the Lab, please contact Morgan Finn at 

Additional information on the College’s reopening policies can be found at For questions on CHER’s programming during the pandemic, please contact Abby Fisher Williamson.



Dear Trinity Community,

In recent weeks, the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) has reflected on Trinity students’ experiences of racism and sexual violence highlighted by @BlackatTrin and @TrinSurvivors, and the comprehensive lists of demands released by the Umoja Coalition and TrinSurvivors. We are seeing, hearing, and feeling students’ pain deeply, and we unequivocally affirm that Black lives matter and we believe survivors. We value the strong presence of BIPOC students in CHER and will strive to make our programs a welcoming space. The organizing and truth-telling we are witnessing has inspired us to make changes. 

After carefully reviewing students’ experiences and demands, we have identified concrete action steps that align with our mission of strengthening educational partnerships between Hartford’s diverse communities and Trinity students, staff, and faculty. Prejudice toward Hartford and its residents represents a significant theme in the @BlackatTrin posts. This mistrust of our predominantly Black and Brown neighbors spills over into stigmatizing students of color on our campus. @BlackatTrin also signals that students of color regularly feel exhausted and exploited, including at times in the community engagement context. Too often, students go unheard when sharing their stories of racism and sexual violence on campus.

In response, CHER reaffirms our commitment to building mutually beneficial partnerships between Trinity and Hartford and supporting an institutional culture of welcoming our Hartford neighbors. Strengthening these meaningful connections can reduce prejudice toward Hartford residents, and the accompanying stigmatization of Trinity’s students of color. Further, we commit to institutionalizing mechanisms for student leadership in CHER to better listen to the experiences of BIPOC and other marginalized students.

Specifically, CHER will:

  • Build deeper relationships with Hartford partners working on racial justice and sexual violence prevention, and publicize opportunities for learning and supporting these local efforts through our social media.
  • Mobilize our partnerships with Hartford organizations to support campus-wide initiatives to expand anti-racist programming and improve campus climate.
  • Renew our efforts to advocate for a welcoming campus environment for Hartford residents through continued evaluation of campus-community relationships.
  • Add diverse student representation to the CHER Advisory Board, alongside our existing faculty, staff, and Hartford resident board members, and explore additional mechanisms for continuous student input.
  • Maintain a standing agenda item for CHER staff meetings on learning about and combatting systemic racism and sexual violence, through shared team readings, discussions, and identification of future action steps.

We are thankful to the students who have shared their stories, and the student organizers who have issued this powerful call to action. We will continue to listen to and amplify your voices.

In solidarity,

Beatrice Alicea, Assistant Director of Community Service & Civic Engagement

Joe Barber, Director of Community Service & Civic Engagement,

Megan Brown, Director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab 

Erica Crowley, CHER Communications & Data Assistant

Morgan Finn, Communications and Program Assistant Liberal Arts Action Lab

Megan Faver Hartline, Director of Community Learning

Robert Cotto, Jr., Director of HMTCA-Trinity College Partnership

Abigail Fisher Williamson, CHER Director and Associate Professor


HMTCA-Trinity Partnership, News

On June 9, the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) Class of 2020 celebrated their graduation. As Trinity College’s partner school, the graduation ceremony is usually held on the Trinity campus. Due to restrictions on in-person events, HMTCA teachers and staff instead organized the graduation ceremony online and by car at the Learning Corridor located across the street from Trinity College.

Starting at noon, the virtual graduation ceremony included a number of speakers (See virtual graduation link here or video below). Principal Julie Goldstein kicked off the ceremony with her call to commencement. Students then offered a number of speeches and performances including Genesis Ramirez (National Anthem), Gloria Torres (Student Reflection), and Lola Kovalski (Senior Class Poem). (See full program here.)

The keynote speaker was Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney. President Berger-Sweeney offered a story based on her family history about perseverance and generational uplift. Finally, school counselors read each graduating student’s name with their picture on the screen.

Later that afternoon, HMTCA students and families participated in a diploma ceremony in transit. Students arrived in cars with their family to hear their name as a graduate, pick up a parting gift, and collect their diploma while having their photo taken on stage with social distance from the crowd.

Students and families decorated their cars, trucks, and jeeps as well as their graduation caps through the Learning Corridor campus, which was a city bus depot many decades ago. Lasting more than two hours, the graduation in transit was a way for students to enjoy their moment and to see many of their teachers and classmates after several months of their senior year being physically restricted for months due to COVID-19.

We wish the HMTCA graduates much luck on their next steps in college and work. And thank you to the HMTCA teachers, staff, and families for all their support of these graduates (full list below).


(Producer: Elissa Brauman)


HMTCA Graduates of the Class of 2020



Teacher and parents: Are you looking for some online material to help keep your students engaged during the school day? Trinity College Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Sarah Raskin, is sending in how-to videos for science experiments that can be done at home with very few household materials.

In the video above, Sarah talks about vision and how your brain deals with visual information coming in from your eyes. The first experiment in this video uses a single sheet of paper to put a hole in your hand (don’t worry, it’s not a real one). Spoiler alert: this is how 3D movies work to trick your eyes. See this experiment and other vision experiments in the video above.

CHER welcomes feedback and suggestions on future educational videos for kids. Submit your ideas to See also our recent blog posts, Free Storytime Read Alouds with Trinity Students, Send Thank You Cards to Health Care Workers in Hartford, and Online Learning and Reducing the Digital Divide During School Shutdown.




The past few months have been difficult and stressful in many ways, and we have also seen amazing warmth and kindness in the Trinity and Hartford community amidst the Covid pandemic. Earlier this month, Archana Adhikari ’22 put together a template to send thank you cards to grocery store employees in the Hartford area, and this week Claire Pritchard put together a template to thank our health care workers. These essential staff are putting themselves on the front lines every day to make sure our family, friends and neighbors are healing and cared for to the best of their ability. We encourage you to use the template below to send cards to Hartford area health care workers, or to health care workers in your community. We also welcome additions and corrections to this list, which can be emailed to Thank you Claire Pritchard ’20 for authoring these messages and compiling our list!

If you are ready to create and send out your cards, great! Be sure to post your cards on social media and tag @trincollcher before you place them in the mail.

Sample Messages
  1. You are real-life superheroes, setting an example of selflessness, compassion, and bravery for all.
  2. I am so grateful for your generosity; from giving your time and your compassion to those who need it most.
  3. In a time like this, you are a beacon of hope, a reminder of how much good there is in the world and how we can all embody that.
  4. I can never forget your selfless dedication to the health of your community, and for that I commend and thank you.

Here are a few templates in Canva you can add your message to and then print out. Alternatively, you can hand write and color your own cards like the one below! See cards you can print and color here.

Once you’ve finished making your cards, it’s time to put them in the mail. Here is a list of Hartford hospitals, clinics and other medical providers and their mailing addresses:

Hartford Hospital testing location at Hartford Hospital Education and Resource Center – 560 Hudson Street, 06106

St. Francis Hospital – 114 Woodland St, Hartford, CT 06105

UConn Health – 800 Connecticut Blvd #1, East Hartford, CT 06108

Hartford GYN Center 1 Main Street Suite N1, Hartford, CT 06106

First Choice Health Centers – 94 Connecticut Blvd, East Hartford, CT 06108

Community Health Services – 500 Albany Ave, Hartford, CT 06120

Charter Oak Health Center – 19 New Park Ave, Hartford, CT 06106

Claire Pritchard ’20 is a senior Theater and Biochemistry major at Trinity College and a TrinCycle instructor.



The Center for Hartford Engagement and Research would like to congratulate Tiana Starks ‘21 on being named a Campus Compact 2020-21 Newman Civic Fellow!

The CHER team recommended Tiana, a Sociology major and Community Action minor, for the leadership and civic engagement she has demonstrated in her coursework in the Liberal Arts Action Lab, various Community Learning Courses, as Community Service Chair of the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization (T.C.B.W.O.), an Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps member, a student worker at Trinfo Café, a Community Action mentor, and so much more. 

Tiana Starks, a third-year student at Trinity College, is committed to addressing issues of equity and justice for young people, particularly in educational spaces. And as a Hartford native, she is passionate about connecting the city where she grew up with the college she now attends. Over the last three years, she has worked closely with community partners on summer learning loss and racial equity; with faculty on projects related to the school to prison pipeline and human rights through music and performance; and in the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps to provide more teacher awareness of trauma and mental health issues within the public school system. Beyond these projects, she is a leader in the Trinity community as the Community Service Chair for the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization; a participant and mentor for the Community Action Gateway program; and Lead Front Desk Ambassador at the Center for Student Success and Career Development. Across all of these projects and activities, she prioritizes the needs of Hartford youth, working to enhance educational justice and equity across the city.” –Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney

Tiana has been a student leader deeply committed to social change during her time at Trinity. Her interest in social justice began in high school when she began to pay attention to issues around educational equity, and she has continued to study these issues in her classes and community-based research projects. She has also shown her passion for connecting Hartford high school students with Trinity’s campus and was recently named one of Trinity’s “50 for the Next 50,” a group of 50 women who will have a lasting impact on the college for the next 50 years.

As a first generation student at Trinity from Hartford, I have both specific knowledge of issues that need to be addressed in the city and a strong desire to connect every aspect of my education with community work… By combining all aspects of my college career with community engagement, I’m able to begin addressing the issues that I saw as a student so that others have more opportunities for an equitable and just education.” – Tiana Starks ‘21

Congratulations again to Tiana! You have been a force at Trinity in growing new leaders both on and off campus, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds.

View Tiana’s profile on the Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows page here.




At Trinity College, we are fortunate to be surrounded by incredible writers. Lucy Ferriss, a writer in residence at Trinity volunteered to put together a series of daily writing prompts for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students that can be completed at home. These prompts are designed so that they can be done alone or in pairs, remotely with a school friend, or at home with a family member. We encourage you to share these prompts with others. Enjoy!

3rd and 4th grade prompts

Go through your family’s old photos. Find a moment that you remember. Write about that moment, but as if you are there right now. So instead of describing the photograph, like “In the photo my mom is holding my baby sister,” you might write, “Mom holds my baby sister, Tina, on her lap, and I feel jealous.” Try to write at least 4-6 sentences.

Answer some of these questions. (You don’t have to answer all of them). When you have answered some of these questions, put the answers together and add any details you like to make a little story of your early life.

  1. When and where were you born?
  2. What do you know about your birth? Who told you?
  3. What is your earliest memory?
  4. Where did you live before you started going to school? (If this is still the place you live, tell us about it.)
  5. Who lived with you?
  6. Where did you play? Describe a favorite thing that you played with.
  7. What did you find amazing?
  8. Tell us about a daydream you used to have.
  9. Were there any animals you loved as a child? If so, describe them.
  10. What do you remember about your first days in school?

Describe yourself from someone else’s point of view. For instance, if you were your mom, what would you say about you? What would you say if you were your best friend? What would one of your stuffed animals say?

5th and 6th Grade

Go into your back yard, or into a park nearby. Write down all the things you notice. Then, either writing outside or back home, do this:

  1. Describe the yard or park from the point of view of a bird, but don’t mention the bird, or that she has a nest, or anything to give it away.
  2. Describe the yard or park from the point of view of a thief, but don’t mention the thief or that he’s stolen anything.
  3. Describe the yard or park from the point of view of a person parachuting from a burning plane. Don’t mention the fire, the plane, or the parachute.

Now read your three descriptions aloud to someone in your family and see if they can guess which is which.


Here’s a poem by Robert Kelly about a snow-woman. “Palaeolithic” means like a cave person, and “fecund” means ready to give birth, the way spring gives birth. I’ve underlined parts of the poem and explained that below.

The snow-woman we’ve seen all week,

big-breasted, big-hipped, small

headed, is much melted now

by the side of Mount Rutsen Road.


It has come to her by day

and the warm melting

is registered each cold night

and held there one more day.


Today her chest is gone

almost and her head’s

a little prong. But the enormous

shapeless hips are where


the upper body’s gone.

She is palaeolithic now, cave mother

a naked, pure big belly


as if this road and this town too

were fecund, and spring will come

here fantastically and soon.


Do you notice that the poem has three tenses? I’ve underlined them for you. Something’s happening now, something happened before, and something’s going to happen in the future. Can you write a poem that has one part in the past, one in the future, and one now? Mix up the times any way you like, but see if you can imagine three moments of time in one poem.


Try to answer some of these questions. (You don’t have to answer all of them.) When you’ve answered some of these questions, put your answers together in a paragraph or two that tells the story of your life from the time you started school till now.

  1. Recall your earliest memories of school. What do you remember feeling about your first few years in school?
  2. Who were your friends when you first started school, and what did you most like to do together? Who was your “best friend,” and how did your friendship begin? What do you think you were given through this friendship?
  3. What do you do when you come home from school? Who is usually there?
  4. Describe a usual evening in your home; a usual Saturday or Sunday.
  5. What kinds of music did you hear when you were younger, and what do you listen to now? Write of a memory that involves music.
  6. What types of reading material do you have in your home? Which books are your favorites?
  7. What does “being good” mean in your family?


7th and 8th Grade

This exercise takes two people. You can do it with someone in your family, or over a video call with a friend, taking turns. One person should shut their eyes while the other one reads the following. Be sure your eyes are shut before you start!

Go back in your mind to something you always do, or used to do, after school or during the summer. In your mind, look at what was surrounding you. See the place where you were playing or working: an afterschool program room, a library, a lemonade stand, a beach, a swimming pool or park, your home with your sisters or brothers. Notice all the shapes and colors of what is around you. Look at whatever you might be holding in your hands: notice its shape and its colors.

            Now look at the other people who are there with you: parents, brothers or sisters, friends, babysitter, neighbor, store owner. Choose one person and observe that person closely. Notice what the person is wearing and the expression on his or her face. What’s this person doing as you watch?

            Begin to hear the sounds in this scene. The sizzle of hamburgers on a grill, the hum of a machine, water splashing, a phone ringing, the thump of music, whatever. Listen to the voices around you: what are they saying? Maybe you’ll hear a line or two of dialogue. What is that person you observed say, and what do you or someone else say in reply?

            Now let yourself experience the smells in this scene: food cooking, fresh-cut grass, sweat, flowers, salt, candy. If you’re eating, you might want to be aware of tastes – the salt in the pizza, a chocolate bar that’s already melted and slick, the fizz of a Coke, the crispness of an apple.

            Look around you and be aware of the climate. Is it summer or winter? If you’re outdoors, what’s the weather like? What time of day is it? If you’re indoors, is the air stuffy or fresh? If you looked out the window, what would you see?

            Next, become aware of touch and texture. Are the things you’re playing or working with soft or rough, smooth or fuzzy, wet or dry? Notice heat and cold, like the damp icy feel of a glass of soda or the warm texture of a child’s hair, or maybe something that’s gone oily or gooey.

            Now turn your sense of touch inward. What movements are you making? How do your muscles feel? Turn to your emotions. Are you tired and depressed, happy and excited, scared? What are you looking forward to after you leave this scene?

            Finally, do you like or dislike the people around you? What do you feel about that person you chose to observe? What do you think that person feels about you? What would you like to say to this person?

            When all these things are clear in your mind, but not until then, open your eyes and write them down as fast as possible. Write in present tense, as if you are still in the scene.

When you’re done, you might read what you’ve written aloud to the person who helped you, and when it’s their turn, they can read aloud to you. These aren’t stories yet – but they might be the start of stories!


Let’s write a sonnet! You may think a sonnet is hard and old-fashioned. But “sonnet” just means “little song.” The main rules of a sonnet are easy – it should have 14 lines, and somewhere along the way, there should be a shift in the feeling of the poem. That’s it. You can rhyme or not. You can have lines as long or as short as you need. Let’s look at this sonnet by Rita Dove, who was recently Poet Laureate of the United States:

Nothing can console me.  You may bring silk
to make skin sigh, dispense yellow roses
in the matter of ripened dignitaries.
You can tell me repeatedly
I am unbearable (and I know this):
still, nothing turns the gold into corn
nothing is sweet to the tooth crushing in.

I’ll not ask for the impossible
One learns to walk by walking.
In time I will forget this empty brimming.
I may laugh again at
a bird, perhaps, chucking the nest –
but it will not be happiness,
for I have known that.

Do you notice how in the first part, she talks about how very sad she is, how nothing makes her feel better? And then, in the second part, she realizes that she will feel better in time, though she’ll never again be as happy as she was before.

One last thing. You don’t have to focus on rhyme or rhythm unless you want to. But you can listen to your language and your sentences. For instance, you might write:

My hair wilts when it gets hot in the summer.

Think about moving that sentence around a little. For instance,

In summer heat, my hair always wilts.

Summertime, heat, and wilting hair.

Whose hair never wilts in the summer? Not mine.

Any of those lines might give your sonnet more “punch,” more sense of the music that will make it a “little song.”


Lucy Ferriss is a Writer in Residence at Trinity College and the author of 10 books, mostly fiction. Foreign Climes, her forthcoming book, is a collection of stories. Her website is

If you are a Hartford-area community partner with specific needs (material items, technology, or volunteers), scroll down and enter into this form.

If you are a Trinity student, faculty, or staff member with ideas or skills to offer to the Hartford community, scroll down and enter into this form.

CHER encourages remote volunteering. See recent CHER News posts about staying safe while being civically engaged during Covid 19. If people choose in-person volunteering, exercise caution and follow social distancing guidelines for your location from the CDC or the State of Connecticut (see also CT FAQ sheet) or Trinity College Advisories.



Covid and recent social distancing measures have drastically changed the workings of many community organizations, at least temporarily. Since CHER launched our Volunteer Page, we’ve seen many community partners request different kinds of web and social media help. To answer some of those questions and to make life easier for others, we’ve decided to launch a series of blog posts under the umbrella of “Social Media & Digital Resources for Community Partners” — aka skills and tricks that are quick to learn but make a big impact on your digital strategy! This is the first of many “how to” posts to come on a variety of digital skills including how to make GIFs for data viz or photos, how to create an online volunteer form, tips for Zoom, how to record a presentation with voice over, how to create short links, and how to use a content calendar for your communications. We encourage partners to submit other requests to us at

One of the first requests we received was for tips on using Facebook Live to host events or community discussions that were previously scheduled to take place in person. Many of our partners have turned to streaming on Facebook Live to stay connected to their members. Facebook Live allows users to stream events directly from their mobile phones, tablets, or desktop computers to their Facebook newsfeed, and allows for two-way communication between viewers and hosts. Plus, live videos generally see 3x the engagement that traditional videos do on the platform, so it’s a great tool to use if you’re looking for lots of back-and-forth conversation and wide reach during your event. If you would like to borrow a digital storytelling kit (table top tripod, smart phone holder, and microphone attachment) to help with your streaming, contact

Facebook has recently introduced Live Producer, which allows for streaming from desktop, laptop, or mobile device and includes newer features that allow you to simultaneously view your stream and comments, monitor your stream health, and create interactive components like polls and questions. Live Producer allows you to use higher-end production equipment and streaming software if desired, but for the purposes of this post we will focus on streaming directly from your internal webcam or mobile phone camera.

How to go live from desktop computer

To go live from your desktop computer, you need to use the Google Chrome browser or you will get an error. First, go to your business/organization page and go to Create –> Live to enter Facebook’s Live Producer. 

Then, under Live Video Setup choose “Use Camera” and allow Live Producer to access to your laptop or desktop’s camera and microphone, like shown above.

Next, set up your live stream with a video title and 1-2 sentence description. Be sure to tag relevant partners in the description by using @[enter their name]. Live Producer also allows you to “Share Your Screen” during the broadcast and it creates a URL to direct people to the live videos on your page, as shown above.

There are several options under “Settings” you may want to use, but we think  “allow users to rewind the live stream during playback” is probably the most useful one.

How to go live from your mobile phone

To go live from your cell phone, simply open the Facebook app, go to your organization’s Page, and click “Live” under “Create a post.” Then, write a sentence or two to describe your video and tag your relevant partners by using @[enter their name]. If you’re having trouble finding the organization you’d like to tag, make sure you’re using their correct username. You can find this by going to their Facebook page and checking underneath their profile photo. The username should be underneath, and it should begin with an @ symbol. 

Share the stream and drive engagement

Before you go live, we recommend that you post or email out an announcement about 1 hour beforehand, with a picture of yourself or other participants, and (if emailing) a link to your page. If you’ll have a long event with a series of questions, we recommend sending out an agenda too! This will help keep others informed and remind them to join and share your stream.

When you go live, ask your colleagues, partners, etc to share the stream. Live streams from Pages (as opposed to Group or Event live streams) allow others to share your stream to their business or personal pages. You can also encourage other Pages or individual people to host a Watch Party for your live stream in order to gather more participants.

If you have participants who cannot join by watching Facebook Live, desktop Live Producer allows you to create a dial-in number with an access code that people can call. Listeners cannot be heard when they call in. See instructions here.

Moderate your discussion and interact with participants

Once you are live, a small version of your stream will appear in Live Producer’s right hand side, and the comments will appear on the left hand side so you can monitor comments and view your stream simultaneously.

Tips for audience engagement”

  • Read, react to, and respond to comments live by using the left-hand pane.
  • Create polls with up to 4 options or ask questions of your audience throughout your stream by selecting “Polls” or “Questions” in your right hand pane, like shown below.

Once your event is over, you should end your broadcast and Facebook will as you to confirm that you want to end the stream. Your video should automatically post to your feed so that others can view it later.

That’s all for now! Are you using Facebook live for your events? CHER encourages community partners to send additional tips for this post to



Community Service, News

At this point into the Covid pandemic, even weekly trips to the grocery store can be incredibly stressful. So many of us are doing all we can to take care of our families and our communities, and with the backdrop of a pandemic, it’s tiring to say the least. Essential workers at grocery stores are putting themselves on the front lines every day to make sure we are fed, which is no small task. To continue our work finding creative ways for people to stay civically engaged, we decided to invite Trinity students to put together a template so folks can mail thank you cards to Hartford-area grocery stores. Thank you to Archana Adikhari ’22 for compiling this template, and to Alex Chambers ’22 (and siblings) for getting putting together the first cards to go in the mail!

We encourage you to use the template below to send cards to Hartford area grocery stores, or to grocery stores in your community. We also welcome additions and corrections to this list, which can be emailed to

If you are ready to create and send out your cards, great! Be sure to post your cards on social media and tag @trincollcher before you place them in the mail.

Sample messages:
  1. It’s people like you who are helping everyone get through this. Thank you for showing up each day.
  2. Thank you so much for supplying groceries and feeding us even in this time of crisis. We all acknowledge your contribution in making our community a feasible place to live. We are grateful to you for supporting us and our community even during this pandemic. 
  3. At this time of epidemic, opening grocery stores and supplying food to our community is heroic. We salute your courageous soul to be there for people and community before yourself. 
  4. You’re helping to keep us all nourished and fed, and that isn’t going unnoticed. We realize how hard you’re working, and just want to say thank you!
  5. Food is an essential supply for the human body. If grocery stores were not open, then we had to face misfortunes due to food shortage more than this pandemic. We appreciate your contribution in keeping us and this Hartford community alive during these hard times.
  6. Thank you for feeding us — we are so grafeul. You are the reason this community can keep functioning. We all are sending love, light, and blessings to you and your family. We hope these blessings of thousands of people out here will keep your family away from any difficulties.


Hartford-area Grocery Stores and Mailing Addresses:


Stop and Shop

150 New Park Ave, Hartford, CT, 06106



511 New Park Ave, West Hartford, CT


CTown Supermarket

1744 Park St, Hartford, CT, 06106


CTown Supermarket

394 New Britain Ave, Hartford, CT, 06106


CTown Supermarket

442 Main St, East Hartford, CT, 06118


CTown Supermarkets

165 Wethersfield Ave, Hartford, CT, 06114


The Greenway Market

71 Asylum St, Hartford, CT, 06103


D&D Supermarket

179 Mather St, Hartford, CT, 06120


Hartford Foodmart

915 Main St, Hartford, CT, 06103


Five Star Farmers Market

475 Flatbush  Ave, Hartford, CT. 06106


Bravo Supermarkets

685 Maple Ave, Hartford, CT, 06114


Bravo Supermarkets

1291 Albany Ave, West Hartford, CT, 06112



480 New Park Ave, West Hartford, CT, 06110


Price Rite of W. Hartford

983 New Britain Ave, West Hartford, CT, 06110


Royal Indian Grocery

560 New Park Ave, West Hartford, CT, 06110


A Dong Supermarket

160 Shield St, West Hartford, CT, 06110


Athemy Supermarket

3 Wethersfield Ave, Hartford, CT, 06114

+1 8605489616


Albany Grocery Store

1160 Albany Ave, Hartford, CT, 06112


Viva Mexico Grocery Store

624 Park St #1, Hartford, CT, 06106

Author bio: Archana Adikhari is a sophomore at Trinity College, from Nepal, who is always up for any type of community involvement. Archana is majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Writing, Rhetoric, and, Media Studies.

CHER encourages remote volunteering. See recent CHER News posts about staying safe while being civically engaged during Covid 19. If people choose in-person volunteering, exercise caution and follow social distancing guidelines for your location from the CDC or the State of Connecticut (see also CT FAQ sheet) or Trinity College Advisories.


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of everyday life are now more challenging. Over the last few weeks, students in public schools have moved from in-person, physical learning to different kinds of online class. This move online has added new difficulties to learning for students and families.

At this difficult time, Trinfo Café recently refurbished and donated laptops to schoolchildren in a variety of Hartford schools, including a donation of twenty-five laptops to partner school, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA). These laptops will be used by HMTCA students that still need a device to connect to online learning.

While HMTCA is only steps away from Trinfo Cafe, the delivery took a team effort. On the Trinity side, Trinfo Cafe Director Carlos Espinosa and Program Manager Arianna Basche (top right) helped to deliver the laptops safely. And Principal Julie Goldstein, Holly Heller (top left), Sherrille Payne (bottom right), and Juan Medina helped receive and prepare the laptops at HMTCA.

The next few months will be challenging for everybody, including HMTCA and Trinity College students, faculty & staff, and parents. So we hope to continue to working together with our students, faculty and staff, partners, and home city during this difficult time.



Over the past few weeks, our team has been collecting read-aloud stories to share out with Hartford parents, educators, and others. This project is inspired in part by Hartford’s Kennelly School Twitter account which features a nightly 7:30pm read-aloud, where staff read a book to children on live video, which is also recorded (See:  Below you’ll find some read-aloud videos submitted by Trinity students, with more to come on this Youtube channel.

Are you a Hartford resident, community partner, or Trinity student, faculty or staff member interested in recording a video of your own? We’re especially interested in multi-lingual submitters for stories in languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French & Haitian Creole, Chinese (including Mandarin, Cantonese), ASL and others. See instructions and sign up to record a video here:

See also our recent blog post “Online Learning and Reducing the Digital Divide During School Shutdown” and our CHER Volunteer page where community groups and organizations can submit needs and view skill offers:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Read by Jill Schuck ’23 (3-6 years)

The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder – Read by Annabel Nottebohm ’21 (3rd Grade)

Where the Wild Things Are – Read by Sarah Baskin, IDP

Little Fur Family – Read by Ella Pepper ’21 (3rd Grade)

Strega Nona, An Old Tale – Read by Brooke Agro ’22 (4-8 Years)

The Rainbow Fish – Read by Remy Chester ’21 (3rd Grade)

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., higher education institutions are taking the necessary steps to keep their students, staff, and faculty safe. Many campuses, including Trinity, have moved to remote classes for some length of time as our communities are being told to practice social distancing, which is the correct public health message, and one that requires us to invent entirely new ways for people to stay connected to each other and civically engaged.

Civic engagement is incredibly important to the health of communities everywhere, so during these challenging times, the Center for Hartford Engagement & Research at Trinity College (CHER) is thinking creatively about our partnerships and how we can stay true to our mission (while keeping everyone safe). We know that many people in our community are in need, and many want to help, so we posed the question: “How can you become civically engaged while practicing social distancing?” 

To answer this question, we decided to go directly to our community partners and ask them what their current needs are, which is important since Covid 19 has drastically changed the operations and staffing structures of many community organizations. To help match those needs, we then invited our Trinity students, faculty, and staff to contribute ideas and skills they can offer to the Hartford community. Thanks to the work of our team and the flexibility of our community engagement database in Airtable, several of these listings now appear publicly on our new web page “Volunteer in the Hartford Area During Covid 19.” This public web page, coupled with a series of CHER blog posts and social media content, will also help us to create new partnerships and expand existing partnerships between community organizations and Trinity students, faculty, and staff.

To help get the ideas flowing, our team created this ever evolving list of online community engagement ideas:

We all need to support each other and stay connected during this difficult period. Feel free to contact any member of the CHER team if you would like to discuss ideas or questions that are on your mind. We’d love to hear from you!

CHER encourages remote volunteering during Covid 19. If people choose in-person volunteering, exercise caution and follow social distancing guidelines for your location from the CDC or the State of Connecticut (see also CT FAQ sheet) or Trinity College Advisories. See also recent CHER News posts about staying safe while being civically engaged during Covid 19. 



Kennelly School staff share read-along videos online

One strategy to continue student learning outside of schools during the COVID-19 public health crisis is to share free online learning resources. The CHER team compiled this list below, with a special focus on those created by Hartford-area schools, organizations, and volunteers. We encourage you to share this link with others, and contact us if you have additional suggestions to offer, especially those created here in Hartford.

Let’s be clear: sharing links is a great start, but not the only step we must take to address educational disparities that existed long before this public health crisis, and will intensify during the length of this public school shutdown. Read CT Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’s story on how the digital divide continues to grow as some of Connecticut’s richer school districts and families have shifted to online learning, which is not yet possible for many poorer school districts and families. Contact the CHER team if you can expand online access to Hartford-area families (by donating computers, helping people connect to internet services, etc.) or have other creative strategies to offer. In addition, we are sharing, though not necessarily endorsing, these special offers by internet service providers to low-income families during the Covid crisis:

  • Xfinity WiFi Public Hotspots: now open to everyone. See link for map of coverage in your area.
  • Internet Essentials from Comcast: New Internet Essentials customers will receive two free months of Internet service, which is available to all qualified low-income households, afterwards $9.95/month plus tax. Check for availability in your area.
  • Cox Connect2Complete service for qualified lower-income families: first month free, then $9.95 per month, free wifi modem, free installation, no deposits. Check for availability in your area.
  • Frontier Lifeline Discount program for qualified lower-income families. Check availability in your area.
  • non-profit organization with tool to find low-cost internet and affordable computers in your area.

Free online learning resources created in the Hartford area:

  • Hartford’s Kennelly School Twitter account features their nightly 7:30pm read-aloud, where staff read a book to children on live video, which is also recorded and made available online. If other people in Hartford wish to create more family-friendly read-aloud videos, please feel free to contact CHER to help circulate them.
  • Active City, a Hartford non-profit dedicated to increasing access to affordable youth athletic programs, is creating sports and exercise videos on Facebook and YouTube for kids and families.
  • Hartford Sweat is also offering exercise and meditation online on Facebook.
  • The researchIT CT service from CT State Library & local public libraries “allows Connecticut library cardholders to search thousands of databases, magazines, journals, newspapers, and catalogs. Signing in may require your library card number.” Resources are organized by topic and audience, including K-12 learners, college students, and adults. Learn more on this Hartford Public Library resources page.
  • Hartford Public Schools created this set of digital learning packets, organized by grade level. Would anyone like to volunteer their time (and their photocopier) to print out packets to distribute to students, perhaps through the HPS Student Meal Pickup locations around the city? Contact CHER if you’re willing to help.

Additional free learning resources from other locations:




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 Learning, News

How can we help students see that their writing can have real outcomes in the world? And how can students’ writing help community partners do their work? These are the questions sitting at the center of Leah Cassorla’s course, RHET 125: Writing for a Digital World. In this class, students learn about multimodal composition and digital rhetorics then use their new knowledge and schools to collaboratively design print and digital compositions for their partners. 

“My students read a lot of rhetorical theory in this class, and I use this as the culminating project for this course so they can take the theory and combine it with the design skills they learn so they can make an impact. I want them to see rhetoric and themselves as rhetors as having power in the world to create change” – Leah Cassorla 

Students partnered with HARC, Kamora’s Cultural Corner, and Hartford PD Not Safe for Women (HPDNSFW), and Trinity’s VITA Tax Clinic at Trinfo Cafe. After initial meetings in October, students spent the second half of the semester designing, revising, and finalizing their products for their partners. These included: websites, social media posts, flyers, brochures, bookmarks, and more. Each group spent time considering the audience their partner wanted to reach before deciding on web and print genres for their products and thinking carefully about the design choices they were making. 

Students’ print materials for Kamora’s Cultural Corner, Trinity’s VITA Tax Clinic, and HARC.

At their final presentations in December, students spoke about the intricacies of designing documents to do work in the world. The group working with VITA discussed the complexities of deciding on what information should go in their brochure about other nearby community resources that people coming to the tax clinic might also be interested in. It was especially important that they figure out a way to link people quickly and easily to online resources, which they ultimately did with a QR Code. Professor Serena Laws who founded and runs Trinity’s VITA site said that students’ work with her was extremely valuable: “This is not something I would have had time to do before this year’s clinic, and it’s going to be a really helpful resource to give to the people we work with.”

Other groups talked about working within pre-existing branding styles and condensing large amounts of text to make their texts easily understood by readers. The HARC student group took several steps to ensure the volunteer brochure they created was consistent with other branding by getting HARC-specific colors and fonts from their partner, Marlisa Smith, as well as access to an online photo album of volunteer pictures. Other groups, like HPDNSFW, were more focused on streamlining text. Students said that the amount of information available through their organization was great, but it was hard to navigate because there was so much of it. They focused on creating a cohesive website that made it easier for people to find information, possible solutions, and how they can get involved. 

The VITA Tax Clinic group poses with their brochure.

One student in the course, Wendy Schon, who partnered with Trinity’s VITA Tax Clinic, says that “Working with a non-profit organization on a physical piece that the organization values was the highlight of this course. We were able to implement design principles learned in class to make something visually appealing.  Positive feedback from our contact person at the non-profit organization made us feel that our work had a useful purpose.” Through this project, students put into practice what they learned in class and were able to see how their rhetorical work made a difference for these organizations.

Leah explained that most of her students are not from Hartford, and they were “choosing the groups they work with for personal reasons,” often because they connected with the mission. This project “allowed them to assist in an organization’s mission that they align with in a community they don’t necessarily belong to and see the impact of their work.” Students in Leah’s course and others like hers are able to learn more about good work happening in Hartford and see how they can directly make an impact as part of that work. They learn about different ways to engage with communities and do good work in the world, no matter where they are.



For the past 21 years, Trinity College’s Office of Community Service & Civic Engagement has hosted “Do-It Day,” a full day of service on a Saturday early in September. Hundreds of student athletes and members of student service groups go out to local organizations to complete projects in parks, arts organizations, non-profits, and more. The purpose of Do-It Day is to strengthen relationships between Trinity and Hartford area organizations. This year, Trinity hosted its first Employee Do-It Day to coincide with the annual Do-It Day. Trinity employees were invited to volunteer alongside their colleagues at Camp Courant, a free summer day camp for children in the Hartford area. In total, 33 Trinity employees spent a warm and sunny morning getting moving– Camp Courant had a number of outdoor beautification projects lined up to help prepare for their annual Buddy Bash fundraiser.

One of the organizers of the event was Andrew Concatelli (pictured right), a member of the planning committee representing the Exempt Staff Council. Andrew said,

“It was great to see faculty, staff, and administrators from all corners of campus working together to help Camp Courant prepare for its Buddy Bash fundraising event the following weekend. Employeevolunteers had the chance to get to know each other better while supporting a good cause and enjoying a beautiful day at the camp.” – Andrew Concatelli, Exempt Staff Council 

The participants included a range of faculty, staff, and administrators, including our own Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney. We also spotted more than a few familiar faces from the CHER team and advisory board: Assistant Director of Community Service and Civic Engagement Beatrice Alicea, Trinfo.Café Director Carlos Espinosa, CHER Advisory Board and faculty member Aidali Aponte-Aviles, Liberal Arts Action Lab’s Morgan Finn, and others.

“Beautiful scenery, a great cause, and awesome people—we couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural Employee Do-It Day! This event gave us the opportunity to connect with one another and finally put a “face to an email,”all while supporting the amazing work that the team at Camp Courant’s doing. I will definitely be attending next year, and hope to see more folks from the Trinity community there, too. Shout out to Carlos Espinosa and Andrew Concatelli for all of their work in organizing this!” – Morgan Finn, Liberal Arts Action Lab


Photo by Jo-Ann Jee

Overall, September 7th marked a full day of Trinity students, faculty, staff, and administrators getting out in the Hartford area to volunteer thanks to the planning committee: Carlos Espinosa, Joe Barber, Andrew Concatelli, Alexandra Fischbein, and Janine Kinel. Thank you to the Non-Exempt Staff Council (NESC), the Exempt Staff Council (ESC), the Office of the Dean of Faculty, the Office of the President, and Human Resources for organizing this event.




Jack and JoeCome ride with Jack Dougherty and Joe Dickerson on the “Pedal for the Pastries” Slow Roll Bike Tour of Hartford bakeries on Saturday September 14th, 2019.

9:30am — meet up at CHER offices, 70 Vernon Street, Trinity College

10:00am — or meet up at our first stop at BiCiCo, 97 Park Street

10am-12 noon — ride and sample Hartford bakeries and pastries from around the globe on our bike route, TBA

Guaranteed to be a calorie-neutral experience (if you pedal and eat small portions).

This is a friendly slow roll bike ride, around 10-12 mph, to help people learn how to bike around Hartford, and to build a stronger sense of community.

Bring your bike and helmet, OR Trinity will pay for up to 7 students/staff/faculty to borrow a bike and helmet from BiCiCo, if you mail by Thursday September 12th. BiCiCo will provide a mobile bike mechanic to help out with minor repairs.

Optional: Sign up on our Facebook event page

Co-sponsored by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College and, Hartford’s community bike shop, a project of the Center for Latino Progress.



When we launched the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) a year ago, one of our highest priorities was hiring a communications and data specialist to help us strengthen relationships between the campus and community partners. Erica Crowley joined the CHER team in August 2018 and brought valuable skills as a community organizer who directed a successful grassroots and social media campaign with reproductive rights organizations, and who had built strong relationships working with several other groups across the city. Right away, she led us in developing and carrying out a communications plan that effectively “tells our stories” and engages diverse audiences. Looking back over CHER’s first year, Erica guided our team to produce over 90 blog posts, 30 YouTube videos, 9 newsletters with Spanish summaries, and around 1,000 social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram.

On June 21st, Erica presented a one-hour interactive workshop on “Designing a Communications Plan for Community Engagement” for a gathering of the Community Engagement Professional Network (CEPN), sponsored by Campus Compact for Southern New England, and hosted at Quinnipiac University. She walked us through the steps behind clarifying your mission, designing a content calendar, and matching various digital and print platforms with different types of audiences. To learn more, check out her presentation slides.

If you are interested in learning more about how to effectively communicate the work you are doing on your campus or in your department, contact



MakerspaceCT recently opened the doors to its collaborative hands-on innovation space, located in the historic G. Fox building at 960 Main Street in downtown
Hartford, and invited prospective partners in the higher education community to explore what they have to offer. Dave Tatem, a Trinity College instructional technologist and member of the CHER Advisory Board, went on the tour and shared what he learned.

Devra Sisitsky, Executive Director of MakerspaceCT, welcomes partnerships with Trinity faculty, students, and staff to utilize their innovative space, which melds traditional manufacturing tools with state of the art technology. Their 25,000 square-foot workspace features more than a dozen shops, including tools for metalwork, welding, woodworking, electronics, robotics, 3D printing, and industrial sewing. MakerspaceCT offers a special student rate of $75 per month, which is the only membership that does not require a one-year commitment. See other membership options at

MakerspaceCT encourages problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills that fit with a liberal arts curriculum. In another Hartford higher education partnership, an architecture class holds their lecture on the main campus and a lab component at MakerspaceCT. Also, similar arrangements are in the planning stages for other courses in theater set and costume design, and entrepreneurial studies. MakerspaceCT also offers a variety of its own fee-based courses that are available to anyone, not just members. Members of the Trinity community seeking more information are welcome to contact Dave Tatem on our campus, or reach out directly to Devra Sisitsky at





Community Learning, News, Urban Ed

On Thursday, June 27, over thirty Trinity students and staff, HMTCA and other local public school teachers, and community partners gathered at the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research to learn about how they can use oral histories to create social change in their communities. We were led by guest facilitator Fanny Julissa García, a Honduran American oral historian contributing work to Central American Studies with a focus on applied oral history and social justice. Fanny explains, “Oral history is about meeting people where they’re at and allowing them to tell their stories.”

Oral history projects can be a daunting task if you’ve never done one before (or even if you have!). To introduce participants to the challenge, Fanny passed out an example of one of her first projects titled “Show Me Your Hands,” where she collected and archived life histories of Central American refugee women detained in the United States. Fanny said,

“I documented these stories with photos of women’s hands, and I took these photos using my iPhone. You don’t need fancy equipment to begin a project like this and there are simple ways to maintain anonymity. I also decided to present these in a booklet rather than have them sit in a library somewhere because I knew my participants would never walk into a huge library and ask to see their oral history. I needed to make sure it was truly accessible.”

Participants described a range of oral history projects they are interested in or already working on, including: telling the stories of black elders and sharing those within a family, working with young people in a classroom setting and allowing freedom of expression, imagining and understanding Hartford and Willimantic neighborhoods before urban renewal and displacement, destigmatizing abortion, and more. These projects from students, faculty, community partners, community organizers, teachers, and local artists encompass family storytelling, school work, academic research, grant-funded projects, and community organizing strategies. We were especially happy to see students and community partners in the Public Humanities Collaborative attend and discuss their projects. Our interests shaped the events of the day, forming the foundation of how and what Fanny taught us about oral histories. 

Rose Reyes, Willimantic Councilwoman ; Kaytlin Ernske ’20 and Sophia Lopez ’22, Public Humanities Collaborative students; Arvia Walker, Political Organizer; and Jasmin Agosto, Community Partner at Hartford History Center.

One of the first key points Fanny discussed was the importance of staying true to the “heart” of your oral history goals. She asked participants to write down their overarching social justice goal for their projects and share them with a partner. She encouraged us to always be asking–“What is my intent? Where is the heart of this for me?”–as we continued on through our projects, allowing the heart of our goals to lead the project. 

Throughout our time together, participants asked deep, insightful questions about how to collect and share stories ethically. How do you address the complexities of big, hard issues like immigration in a single interview? How do we minimize the possibility of re-traumatization during interviews? What does ethical storytelling and story collecting look like, especially when end products might look the same in spite of different collection processes? Fanny shared her expertise as someone who has waded through these kinds of questions throughout her work. In particular, she talked about how important an ethical process of co-creation is for oral history collection, especially in consent processes (see resources below). Fanny also gave participants the opportunity to thoughtfully engage with each other’s work through small group workshops of each other’s projects. All participants were willing to dig in and sift through the complexities of these projects and the difficult questions that come up in this work. 

Toward the end of the day, Fanny encouraged everyone to think about the future of their projects. She explained, 

“Oral history should not end at collecting and archiving. How do we engage a specific community and the general public with these stories? Why do these stories matter for generations to come? How can they be used to educate futures?”

When we are using oral history storytelling for the express purpose of creating social change, we must think beyond the archive. Stories kept in a box in a library or even in a public database can’t do the work of creating change. Changemaking requires that we build in plans for sharing stories within our current communities and the general public as well as how they can be shared as histories with future generations. 

To close the workshop, Fanny reminded us of the importance of what we had done together and who we are in community with each other. Toward that end, she recreated an exercise by Adrienne Maree Brown, New York social activist and educator and author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Through this exercise, we left grounded in our shared stakes in the movements for social change and the power of co-creation. 

Thank you to Fanny Julissa García for her time and thoughtfulness in creating and offering this workshop for us!

If you would like Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change to visit your group, organization, community center and/or class for a workshop on the use of oral history for social change, please send an email to Please also check Groundswell’s website at for updates on upcoming online classes and resources!

For some basics on how to get started with oral history and engage participants ethically:

Oral History Association: Principles and Best Practices

Sample Informed Consent Form

Example Projects:

Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories 2018

Forced Trajectory Project, a multimedia project using oral history to document the longterm effect of police brutality on families and communities

Unfinished Sentences: A Collaboration to Preserve the Historical Memory of El Salvador’s Civil War 




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Last week, Professor Serena Laws’ “Envisioning Social Change” students in the first semester of the Community Action Gateway shared their video projects with Hartford community partners. In the Community Action Gateway, students have the opportunity to work on community-based research or social change projects with Hartford-area community activists, neighborhood organizers, government leaders, non-profit leaders, journalists, and social entrepreneurs. This semester, students partnered with Billings Forge Community Works, Christian Activities Council, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Make the Road Connecticut, and ReSet Social Enterprise Trust.

At the Shareback dinner, held at the Liberal Arts Action Lab downtown,  students to debuted their 1-minute videos and Professors Serena Laws and Jack Dougherty facilitated the conversation between last year’s gateway students, current students, and community partners to discuss social change in Hartford. Check out the video below to see a recap of the discussion.

Students will soon be working on proposals for Spring 2019 social change projects. Thank you to Professor Serena Laws, Associate Director of Community Learning Megan Faver Hartline, and Faculty Director of Community Learning Jack Dougherty for making these opportunities available to first year students.

Click here learn more about the Community Action Gateway.


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Last week, Brett Davidson from the Connecticut Bail Fund came to speak at Common Hour with the Trinity Young Democratic Socialists and Human Rights Department. The Connecticut Bail Fund is a grassroots organization whose mission is to abolish mass criminalization, incarceration, and deportation. They pay bail for people who are incarcerated due to poverty, and then once they are free, work alongside them and their families to advocate for their human rights. Brett said since 2016, they have freed over 250 people.

Most states, including Connecticut, have a cash bail system. This means that after an arrest, a person’s ability to leave jail before their trial is dependent on their ability to pay. Brett said in legal theory, bail is supposed to be imposed on someone who is a flight risk— to ensure that they return to court to face their charges. In reality, however, bail has become wealth-based in incarceration. According to the ACLU, over 70% of people in jail at any given time in the U.S. have not been convicted of a crime.

When a judge sets that kind of bail for someone who, for example, doesn’t have a job, they know that person isn’t getting out.” 

One student asked about the role of public defenders and the ways that people are treated when they cannot afford representation. Brett said,

In the communities where we work the public defenders are known as public pretenders. They are so overloaded with cases. A lot of public defenders don’t want us to bail our their clients because it’s easier to process the cases with the clients incarcerated. There’s also this mistaken notion that people get services when they’re in jail, such as drug rehabilitation. However, in my experience it takes at least 5-6 months to access any services.”

Students asked, “What’s the relationship between bail and the larger criminal injustice system? What could bail reform look like in Connecticut?” Brett said, “Around the country there’s a growing movement to end money bail. Right now we decide who gets locked up vs who gets to fight their cases from the outside is based on who has money. The short answer is: it’s complicated. A lot of people around the country are now looking to Risk Assessment as a way to reform, however these assessments use really dangerous proxies for race, such as what magazines someone subscribes to, for example.

Instead, the bail fund focuses on a combination of meeting people’s immediate needs (bailing them out and using a harm reduction model in their work) as well as working on the abolition of incarceration altogether. To end the talk, Brett encouraged to group that instead of thinking about the notion of dangerousness or “violent criminals” the real questions they could be asking are, “When violence happens? What is the response? What are ways that we can look at restorative justice and transformative justice?”

To learn more about the Connecticut Bail Fund, visit Thank you to the Human Rights Department, Trinity Young Democratic Socialists of America, and the Connecticut Bail Fund.


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Call for Proposals 2018-19
Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) – Trinity College
Academic Collaboration Grants

Academic collaboration between Trinity College and HMTCA has grown since the formal partnership agreement between the two organizations in 2011. The partnership includes two summer academies at Trinity for HMTCA 9th and 10th grade students, academic collaboration in specific academic departments, HMTCA students taking introductory Trinity classes, attendance at Trinity lectures and programs, and a number of other academic and service projects. As of summer 2018, the HMTCA-Trinity College partnership is supported by Urban Educational Initiatives in the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity. Learn more about this partnership here.

Over the years, there has been increased interest for supporting innovative projects to benefit students at both HMTCA and Trinity College. Some of these projects may be one-time projects (designed for a short period) and others may be pilot programs (to test an idea for a potentially longer period). As these efforts expand, it is important to support new projects and share the accomplishments of academic collaboration between the two institutions.
This call for proposals supports one-time or pilot projects that strengthen the HMTCA-Trinity College partnership. Resources from the Urban Educational Initiatives and Community Learning budgets may fund up to two projects at $1,000 each during the remainder of the 2018-19 academic year. All proposals must include and benefit both HMTCA and Trinity students. Preference will be given to projects that also include both HMTCA and Trinity faculty/staff, and include multicultural and/or multilingual education.

Short proposals (<1000 words) to support expenses for academic collaborations between HMTCA and Trinity College should be submitted by December 14, 2018. Please refer questions and submit completed proposals to Robert Cotto, Director of Urban Education Initiatives, 860 297-4100. Submit proposals via e-mail to

Proposals should include the following information:

  • Names and contact information for Trinity and HMTCA faculty and/or staff collaborators
  • Specific time period of the academic collaboration (such as a date, month, or semester in 2018-19)
  • Course titles and student enrollments (or if the collaboration is not classroom-based, carefully describe the participants and setting)
  • Description of academic collaboration, including goals, methods, anticipated challenges, and strategies to overcome them
  • Description of documentation and/or sharing of accomplishments
  • Benefits: How does this project benefit both Trinity and HMTCA students? Also, does it include multicultural and/or multilingual benefits for students? How does this project enrich the curriculum?
  • Budget: We welcome proposals with specific budgets, using any of these categories:
    1) Planning (provide detail)
    2) Materials (art supplies, lab materials, books not otherwise covered by existing institutional budgets)
    3) Documentation (for example, costs to document the presentation of a collaborative project)
    4) Additional compensation (with approval by direct supervisor, up to $750 may be used for faculty or staff additional compensation)

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Nat Bush ’19 is the co-president of the Green Campus Club at Trinity College, part of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement. We asked Nat to be a guest blogger and write about their experience attending the Students for Zero Waste Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Check out Nat’s guest blog below.

Last weekend, myself and other student representatives from the Green Campus club attended the Students for Zero Waste conference at the University of Pennsylvania. This conference, provided by PLAN (Post-Landfill Action Network) is an annual two-day conference hosted at a different campus each year on the East Coast.

They provide students with dozens of workshops that teach them how to incorporate a zero waste lifestyle into their personal, school, and professional life. In addition, the conference itself is zero waste, meaning that no trash is produced for the duration of the weekend. Students are encouraged to bring their own silverware, Tupperware, dish cloth, and other products that normally would be tossed out.

This conference was absolutely transformative for me. I went to the conference 2 years ago as well, when it was at University of New Hampshire, but at the time I wasn’t aware enough of how I could implement zero waste efforts into the Trinity campus community. Now that I’ve had 3 years of experience with Green Campus, EROS, and my other involvements at Trinity, I’ve been able to take the lessons provided at the conference and compare them with how I’ve run things on campus. For example, one workshop taught me how to prevent burnout and inspire club members to maintain their involvement in the club. It is easy to get caught up in your own responsibilities as a president or other leading position in a club, and therefore get burnt out and lose interest in continuing your involvement. In order to fix this, the workshop taught us it’s necessary to include each and every club member, to tell them how they matter to you, why you appreciate having them in the club, and providing them with meaningful work that will reassure them that their membership matters.

Another workshop was run by three costume designers who make their clothing from discarded fabrics. In a capitalist society we are accustomed to throwing away things we no longer want, and we don’t see where our waste goes. We put it into a trash can and often don’t see the other side, where the waste gets incinerated or sent to a landfill. Clothes that just have a hole or two in them can still be worn for many years, and even if they’re ripped to the point of being unwearable, it’s possible to repurpose them. One woman leading the workshop gave an example of a beautiful dress she bought in the 1970s that she then turned into a skirt. The fashion industry is incredibly wasteful, so there are plenty of opportunities for repurposing the fabric they use into new and unique designs.

I highly encourage that students at Trinity continue to attend this conference. Even if it’s just a few representatives, they can document what they learned and bring it back to their clubs on campus to make Trinity a more sustainable and active community.

Green Campus is committed to fostering respect for the environment and implementing sustainable practices on Trinity’s campus and throughout the Hartford community. Be sure to follow Green Campus on their new Instagram account @tcgreencampus.

Special thanks to Nat Bush ’19 and other Green Campus student reps!


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With over 20 proposals submitted by Hartford community partners, the Liberal Arts Action Lab has formed 4 research teams for Spring 2019. These project teams will focus on a diverse set of issues facing Hartford from developing culinary job training to expanding park and trail access. All students will meet together in the Action Research Methods course on Monday afternoons and also will participate in one of the four Hartford research project teams below:

Culinary Careers Project

Food service is one of the few options open to people with barriers to employment, especially in Hartford. Many people of color and women, however, are mired in entry-level positions without advancing due to lack of training and often-unconscious racism and sexism in the culinary sector. In this project, students will conduct research to improve training programs for entry-level food service workers to move into middle-income managerial jobs. They will review other national training models, participate in phone interviews with programs, identify any best practice reports available, and review and rank conferences for relevance.

Day and time: Tuesday afternoons, 1:30-4:10 pm

Community Partner: Cary Wheaton, Billings Forge Community Works

Faculty Fellow: India Weaver, Capital Community College

Student Success Project

West Indians comprise the largest foreign-born population in Connecticut at precisely the same time that budgets for “new arrivals” programs aimed at easing their transition into the K-12 education systems have been slashed. In this project, students will gather data from parents, students, and teachers in Hartford area schools to answer the question: how do local area schools integrate West Indian children and their parents into the education system when English language learning and programs aimed at cultural competency often miss the nuances of the needs of English-speaking migrants, their children who emigrate with them, as well as their first-generation children?

Day and time: Wednesday evenings, 6:30-9:10 pm

Community Partner: West Indian Foundation (Desmond Collins, President; Violette Haldane, VP of Programming; and Dr. Fiona Vernal, board member), West Indian Foundation (founded 1978)

Faculty Fellow: Cleo Rolle, Capital Community College

Latinx Theater Project

Upwards of 45 percent of the population in Hartford identifies as Hispanic or Latinx. After surveying their audience, Hartford Stage identified a need for both Spanish-language theater and Spanish-language published materials which accompany their shows. Students in this project will collect qualitative and quantitative data from Hartford’s Latinx arts community to improve and expand Hartford Stage’s partnerships and programming.

Day and time: Wednesday afternoons, 1:15-3:55 pm

Community Partner: Rachel Alderman and Theresa MacNaughton, Hartford Stage

Faculty Fellow: Diana Aldrete, Trinity College

Riverside Recapture Project

Riverfront Recapture is seeking to expand access to the Connecticut River to include neighborhoods in the North End of Hartford. This expansion will allow for an increase in environmentally-friendly transportation in the city and access to other green space in the region, and the organization is planning on adding amenities to existing trail systems that will remove barriers to access. In this project, students will engage residents in the planning processes, provide an opportunity for their voices to be heard, and identify barriers, needs, and interests, in order to create a park and trail system that will be fully utilized and valued as a community asset.

Day and time: Thursday afternoons, 1:30-4:10 pm

Community Partner: Martha Conneely, Riverfront Recapture

Faculty Fellow: Stefanie Chambers, Trinity College

Contact Action Lab Director Megan Brown for questions or to learn how to apply for the next round of Action Lab projects.

[Photo by Nick Caito, Trinity College]


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Professors Jack Dougherty (Educational Studies) and Kyle Evans (Mathematics) are teaming up to redesign Educ 350: Teaching and Learning, to be offered on Fridays 1:15-3:55pm in Spring 2019. The course will delve into topics such as curriculum standards, assessment, and equity, with a special focus on science and mathematics education. For the Community Learning  component, pairs of students will design and teach two inquiry-based lessons in Hartford public elementary or middle schools during our class time, and create web portfolios that combine writing and video of their teaching and student learning. See past examples of Trinity student teaching portfolios on the web by Elaina Rollins ’16, Christina Raiti ’16, and Emily Meehan ’16.

Prerequisite is Educ 200: Analyzing Schools, or permission of either instructor. To request permission, email a one-paragraph statement of interest to either Prof. Jack Dougherty or Kyle Evans, or speak with them during office hours.

Click here to see a listing of more Spring 2019 Community Learning Courses.


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Hartford community partners in a focus group with Megan Hartline and Karolina Kwiecinska at Trinity College in August 2018.

In late summer 2018, the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) invited Hartford-area community partners who engaged with Trinity students to share their feedback in focus group sessions. CHER is responsible for regularly evaluating community engagement between Trinity and Hartford, so that all parties better understand the scope and quality of our work together, so that we may continue to improve. Now that we have reviewed notes from these very insightful conversations, this report outlines six of our key findings about these partnerships, as told from the perspective of twenty community organizations.

This is the second year that Megan Faver Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning, has led these focus groups. (See her first report from summer 2017 [link].) We invited about 50 Hartford-area community partners, most of them affiliated with non-profit organizations and neighborhood groups that collaborated during the prior academic year with Trinity students through various CHER programs: Community Learning, Community Service & Civic Engagement, Liberal Arts Action Lab, and Trinfo.Cafe. We were pleased that 21 partners (who represented 20 different organizations) generously made time to participate in hour-long focus groups, which took place on six different dates in August and September 2018. Two participants attended because they read about the focus groups in a CHER public announcement. During these sessions, we asked participants to describe their interactions with Trinity students; to review the costs, benefits, and development of these relationships; and to evaluate their overall impact on Hartford. (See our focus group questions in the appendix.) While the vast majority of the 21 participants represented organizations located in Hartford, only about half of these people reside inside the city. As a result, the feedback described below is not necessarily representative of all of Trinity’s community partners, because it is a self-selected sample of people who agreed to attend a one-hour focus group. Furthermore, our study of community partners does not attempt to represent the views of Hartford neighborhood residents at large. But until Trinity conducts future assessments, these focus groups offer the richest data currently available on the quality of our engagements, as viewed from the perspective of Hartford community partners.

  1. Range of Partnerships: We began each session with a short writing exercise that asked participants to list the ways that their organizations interacted with Trinity students during the prior school year. After listening to participants share their lists, we sorted them into our three recommended categories. Of the 20 different organizations represented, they primarily interacted with Trinity students in these ways:
  • Service Hours: 3 described how students tutor youth or volunteer at programs or events
  • Information Products: 5 stated how students created products like videos, data visualizations, and curriculum units
  • Research Studies: 10 identified how students conducted oral histories, or collected and analyzed data for studies

Note that the numbers above should not be interpreted as percentages of overall student engagement, because a service project may include 25 students while a research study may involve only 2. Furthermore, the focus group participants were not a carefully-designed representative sample, and these categories are not mutually exclusive.

Participants also provided new examples that forced us to rethink and expand our categories above. One explained how they interacted with Trinity students primarily through Artistic Collaboration, and another suggested adding this category: Guest Speaker in Class. Most impressive was the wide range — and unexpected cases — of community partner engagements with students. These focus groups taught us that no single Trinity employee had knowledge of all of our partnerships and the various ways that students interact with Hartford organizations. This finding provided additional motivation for the CHER team to create a collaborative database of our community engagements, to help us identify and work more closely with all of our partners.

2. Benefits to Partners:

When community partners agree to have Trinity students work with their organizations, this so-called “free” labor may require a significant investment of their time, so we asked them to evaluate the costs and benefits. All partners stated that student projects were useful to their organizations. “It’s a luxury for us to have folks who focus in on one specific project,” was a common theme voiced by community partners at small organizations with limited resources. In addition, about 75 percent reported that students completed work that their organizations would not have been able to do on their own. “The work that Trinity students have done for us would not be obtainable” without them, one partner stated, while another emphasized that their work without Trinity students would “not be as high quality.” Some partners attributed the high quality of Trinity student work to the faculty or staff oversight in the process, or noted that they would be hesitant to work with students without oversight. “When expectations are laid out for them, students are much more engaged,” one observed. Furthermore, even when counting the other 25 percent of organizations that would have done the work on their own, Trinity student involvement delivered value by offering different perspectives. “I appreciated the fresh approach by a younger set of eyes,” stated a humanities partner who worked with historical materials that were already very familiar to her. Others welcomed Trinity students for building public awareness of their organization’s work by “feeding it out” to younger generations on social media.

3. Relationships Drive Partnerships: When we asked participants how they began their partnerships with Trinity, about two-thirds pointed to their existing relationships with Trinity staff and faculty, and often named specific individuals as connectors. The other third were motivated by their desire to build new relationships with Trinity College at large, or noted how Trinity programs fulfilled one of their organization’s needs. This finding reminds us of the importance of establishing, sustaining, and expanding individual relationships with Hartford partners, which is vital to the work of CHER and the continued health of campus-community partnerships.

4. The Power of Networking Partners: One advantage of focus groups, rather than individual surveys or interviews, is that Hartford community partners frequently met one another for the first time. This happened far more often than we expected, given that people often refer to Hartford as a small city where everyone supposedly knows one another. Instead, community partners often engaged in conversations before, during, or after our focus groups to learn more about each other’s work, discuss potential collaborations, and exchange business cards. Moreover, when one partners described a particularly enriching partnership with Trinity, other partners often wanted to know more. One newer partner remarked, “I’m extremely curious about all of these other partnerships” described by other groups at the table, and another partner wondered “how to do that” with their own organization. Overall, this finding reinforces why CHER needs to improve campus-community partnership storytelling in our blog, social media, and monthly newsletter, to help other Hartford organizations imagine possibilities of collaborating with Trinity. Furthermore, CHER can play a more dynamic role in the city by regularly hosting focus groups or other events that bring together community partners to meet and brainstorm with us and other Hartford organizations.

5. Improve our Two-Way Relationships: Although we did not directly ask participants about campus-community relationships, this theme emerged at several focus groups, and views were mixed. On one hand, many praised the numerous Trinity programs that are designed to connect outward to the city. On the other hand, some believed that Hartford residents do not feel “invited” to come onto Trinity’s campus, or attend events, or use campus space, particularly in comparison to publicly-funded colleges and universities in the city. “Are we welcome here?” asked one focus group participant, who also is a Hartford resident and person of color. Even partners who feel somewhat comfortable at Trinity expressed confusion over how to find information about public events or answers to questions about requesting to use campus space. One positive example that actively makes Hartford residents feel welcome at Trinity is the International Hip Hop Festival, which several participants raised. Overall, these focus groups highlighted concerns about unbalanced campus-community relationships. Although Trinity sponsors multiple programs to engage students with Hartford, some city residents — notably some of our valued community partners on educational projects — do not always feel welcome on Trinity’s campus.

6. Unclear Impact on Hartford: Near the end of each focus group, we asked community partners to answer the big question: given their organization’s partnership with Trinity, and other Trinity partnerships that they were aware of, have these relationships made any difference in Hartford? The breadth of this question prompted long pauses and mixed responses, with different types of reasoning.


On one hand, partners who leaned “no” tended to emphasize higher expectations for Trinity as an “anchor institution” in the city. “I would expect to have more partnerships, not just with students, but also faculty. Their reach into really shaping Hartford isn’t there yet,” observed one partner. Another pointed to publicly-funded higher education institutions in the city that “are integrated and invested in partnerships all over the place. . . [while] Trinity literally has a fence. . . I see it making a difference with individual students, who are already inclined to working with the city. [Our Trinity students] feel frustrated about isolation and lack of integration.”


On the other hand, some partners who leaned “yes” argued that Trinity’s long-term institutional investment in the Hartford, from former President Evan Dobelle’s era to the present, is making a difference. Some answered affirmatively by pointing to the many individual relationships that formed through campus-community partnerships, particularly for Hartford youth in mentoring programs. College students “have incredible potential to influence young people, high-school age people. With a little bit of help, there could be thousands of college mentors in Hartford,” one partner observed. Still others mentioned very specific projects (such as an information product that Trinity students created to help domestic abuse victims hide their location on smartphones) as evidence that our work has an impact “on a micro level.” One community partner summed up their response to the question about whether we are making a difference in Hartford this way: “On an individual level, yes. As a whole, do I think we are moving the needle together? Probably not. Do I think we could? Yes. This year? Probably not.”


In conclusion, the CHER mission statement is “to strengthen educational partnerships between Hartford’s diverse communities and students, staff, and faculty at Trinity College, and evaluate campus-city relationships.” To achieve this goal, we need to regularly conduct assessments about the quality of our relationships — most notably with our Hartford community partners — and to publicly report our findings to help all of us improve our work together. This report is one step in a continuing effort to enhance assessment and communication. Another example of assessment work-in-progress is the online survey and follow-up focus groups with educators, students, and alumni involved in the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) and Trinity College partnership, conducted by Robert Cotto, Director of Urban Educational Initiatives. The Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) plans to continue gathering feedback from more Hartford community partners and neighborhood residents in the future, to shape our future efforts.


If you are a Hartford community partner or Hartford resident who interacts with Trinity College students, and wish to be invited to similar focus group sessions in the future, contact Erica Crowley, Communications and Data Assistant for the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research.


Thank you to Erica Crowley and Karolina Kwiecinska for their contributions to this report by taking notes at many of these meetings.


Appendix: Community Partner Focus Group Discussion Guide, Trinity College CHER

Thanks for participating. The purpose of this focus group is to better understand relationships between Trinity College and Hartford-area community partners. We will ask you some questions, which will require about a half-hour of your time. People in the room will hear your answers, and we will write notes about your responses. But our final report will NOT identify you or your organization by name. Your participation in this project is completely voluntary, and you are free to stop or withdraw at any time.

1) Create a List

Our goal is to make concrete examples more visible to everyone in the focus group. Feel free to add notes to this page during our discussion. We will collect your sheet at the end.

– Name of your organization:

– List ways that Trinity students interacted with your organization over the past school year.

2) Looking at what you wrote above, what type of work did students do for your organization?

– Did students provide hours of service?

– Did students provide information or research products?

3) In your own words, tell us more about how Trinity students interacted with your organization and the service/information/research they provided.

4) Tell us about the conversations with people at Trinity and your organization that led to this arrangement, and why you agreed to participate.

5) Did the Trinity students provide service/information/research that your organization would not have had otherwise?

6) Did the Trinity student service/information/research require additional supervision from your organization? If yes, was it worth the investment of your supervisory time?

7) Thinking about your organization’s partnership with Trinity, and other Trinity partnerships you’re aware of, have these relationships made any difference in Hartford?

8) What are your organization’s plans for the next year?

9) Would you like to continue partnering with Trinity in the future? Why or why not?


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Joe Barber is the Director of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement

Let’s start with: where are you from where did you grow up?

I grew up in Winsted, Connecticut (fun fact: that’s the hometown of Ralph Nader).  I received a B.A. in Sociology in 1992 (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and an MPA in 1994—both from the University of Connecticut. I have lived in Hartford since 1996 and I’ve been a homeowner in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood since 1999. Currently, I’m on the boards of the Frog Hollow NRZ committee, Night Fall and the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. I work on Asking for a Friend with Chion Wolf—a live advice show at Sea Tea Comedy Theater—and play alto saxophone in the Hartford Hot Several Brass Band.

Tell us about yourself and your work at Trinity College. What does a day in the life look like?

I’ve been with the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement for 22 years–since October of 1996—and been director for about 16 years. I usually start my day at Peter B’s for some coffee and check in on my first round of emails for the day.  Then I go to my office and do paperwork, pay bills, take and make calls, and attend to any of the other non-ending administrative details that go into keeping an office going.  Throughout the day students come and go, and a good portion of the time is spent meeting and working with students on the various projects and events of the Office.

You’ve been at Trinity for a long time. What are you proudest of in your work?

What has been most heartening is to look over the Office’s body of work and see a range of projects that are diverse in content as well as longevity. We have over 20 ongoing programs and partnerships as well as about the same number of annual projects. There are projects like Halloween on Vernon Street and our Thanksgiving Drive that have been around for over20 years, as well as new partnerships and programs like Jumpstart and Trinity Homelessness Project that started just last year.

In addition, we’ve made a concerted effort throughout my time here to broaden the idea of what is community service (hence the full name of the office being community service and civic engagement). Community service should be thought of as service to democracy that involves continually enlarging the circle of people involved and engaged in society. So, yes, it’s about tutoring and mentoring, food pantries, food drives and toy drives, cleaning parks, and building houses, but it’s also about human rights, the environment, art, social entrepreneurship, community building, and dialogue about social issues and community. This approach has allowed the Office to have great diversity in the work we are able to do in Hartford and how we promote Hartford as our home, as well as providing many opportunities that emphasize the importance of being an involved and active citizen in a democratic society.

What are some projects your office has done people should know about?

One of them is the Bantam Bus Pass (originally the U-Pass) which we started (in partnership with CT Transit) in the Fall of 1999. It provides all students free transportation all local CT Transit and the CT Fastrak buses. It’s important because it gets people out of their cars and out using public transportation. It’s good for the environment and it allows students to get to know Hartford in a more intimate way.

Some of the other projects that we are known for (or at least should be) are Do It Day, Halloween on Vernon Street, Trinity Film Festival, our Thanksgiving drive, Sponsor-a-Snowman holiday gift drive for Interval House, Backpack Nutrition Program, sustainability projects (recycling, composting, etc.), Place of Grace Food Pantry, the Coop thrift shop and the Jones-Zimmerman Academic Mentoring Program at HMTCA.. We also have long-standing officially recognized campus chapters of Amnesty International, Best Buddies, ConnPIRG, Habitat for Humanity, and Lions Club.

What are some of your favorite memories at Trinity?

That’s a tough one for me. I’ve been doing this for a long time and there really are so many.  But honestly some of my favorite memories are right here around this table in Mather basement when I’ve been working with students on different projects or just talking about life. It really is this space where the ideas come to be. It really is a co-working environment; I can’t work without them and they can’t work without me.  And when we see a project through to successful completion, those are the really nice moments.

What else should people know about you?

I usually run every day at lunchtime, and I am the team liaison/advisor for Trinity’s men’s and women’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams.


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Last week, the Department of Public Policy and Law, the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement, the Trinity Homelessness Project, and the Trinity Young Democratic Socialists organized a Common Hour event, “Addressing Homelessness and Affordable Housing in Connecticut.” In the video below, Brooke Williams ’18 of Trinity Young Democratic Socialists and Kyle Fields ’20 of the Trinity Homelessness Project explain their plans for organizing the event.

The guest speaker for the program was Erin Boggs, the Executive Director of Open Communities Alliance, a Connecticut-based civil rights organization advocating for access to opportunity. Erin comes from a family of civil rights activists, including her father who became a civil rights lawyer, and attended public schools in D.C. with her three siblings which she says has a huge influence on her worldview and impacts the work she does today.

This common hour event was almost completely full, and rightfully so; Connecticut is one of the most segregated states in the country when it comes to housing. Erin said,

In terms of segregation, Connecticut is one of the most segregated state in the country. We are right on par with Chicago and Detroit. This comes out of a number of factors including what we’ve done with zoning laws, where we’re putting subsidized housing, where we’re allowing housing authorities to operate, disinvestment from communities that are disproportionately communities of color, and our entire history of explicitly racist housing policies.

Drawing on CHER director and Professor Jack Dougherty’s work in “On the Line” and Richard Rothstein’s “Color of Law” Erin explained how many of the issues we are seeing today, including the opportunity gap and affordable housing that OCA studies, are a result of a long history of state sponsored segregation.

To give some background from Richard Rothstein’s work, there were two main aspects that interacted: the first was the rise of public housing and the second was federally backed housing developments for white families. Public housing began during the New Deal under the Roosevelt Administration to provide housing primarily to low and middle income families who had lost their homes during the Great Depression, and the Administration included separate public housing for African American families. These patterns of segregated public housing went on through World War II, and in 1949 President Truman proposed a massive expansion of the public housing program, again primarily for white families, to accommodate the shortage of housing largely for veterans. After lengthy political back and forth between Republicans and liberals of the Democratic party regarding integration or segregation, the bill passed and hugely expanded public housing, still segregated.

However, after a few years, the public housing for white families was suddenly vacant and the public housing for African American families was still full and with a waiting list. Erin explained how Jack Dougherty’s work in “On the Line” wanted to understand these changes that had taken place in the Hartford area:

So Jack and others mapped the racial makeup change in the Hartford area from 1950 to 2010. With that shift he’s also done a map of home values over time, you can see the more expensive homes were originally in Hartford, and then with the wealth flight and White flight the high value homes were outside of Hartford.

In the video above, see Jack Dougherty’s mapping of the racial change in Hartford from 1950-2010. The reason for this change was another federal program run by the Federal Housing Administration which “subsidized the movement of white families out of central cities and into single-family homes in the suburbs into houses that were exclusively white. The federal government guaranteed loans to mass production builders to build tens of thousands of homes. The loans were guaranteed on explicit condition that no homes be sold to African Americans and that every home in the development had to have a clause in the deed prohibiting resale to African Americans” (Rothstein).

During the talk, Erin focused on how policies regarding affordable housing and homelessness play a role today in reinforcing this history of state sponsored segregation and the opportunity gap in our state. She explained that one of the ways that policymakers address the issues of homelessness and affordable housing is by defining what homelessness is in order to identify families that qualify for certain resources such as the Housing Choice Voucher. While defining homelessness is critical for impact evaluation, it also means that families who don’t meet the definition can fall through the cracks. Associate Director of Community Learning Megan Faver Hartline said:

We discussed how there’s a difference between HUD’s definition of “literal homelessness” and the realities of many families with kids who double up and couch surf but have no reliable, permanent place to sleep each night.” -Megan Faver Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning

This narrower definition means that resources such as the Housing Choice Voucher have been invested only in families that are considered “literally homeless” by HUD’s definition. Erin says to address homelessness in the long term, it’s important to ensure we deal with real family homelessness now, including supporting families that are doubled up or couch surfing. This would mean either 1) hard decisions about re-allocating current resources, or 2) a meaningful increase in housing investments.

To further explain housing investments by the state, Erin gave an overview of OCA’s “Out of Balance Report” which measures the opportunity gap in different geographic areas in Connecticut. OCA started by designating neighborhoods’ “opportunity score,” which is indicated by educational indicators such as test scores and educational attainment, economic indicators such as unemployment rate and job diversity, and neighborhood/housing quality indicators such as neighborhood vacancy and homeownership rate (shoutout to the Fall 2018 Liberal Arts Action Lab team looking at Homeownership in Hartford with Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner!). They found that low opportunity areas, shown in the maps below in lightly shaded areas, were highly concentrated in communities of color.

Next, OCA mapped where subsidized housing is located, and the map patterns followed. They found that almost 90% of the subsidized housing developments created by the State of Connecticut are outside of high opportunity areas. In OCA’s research they found that many families living in low opportunity areas do want the choice to move to higher opportunity areas, but the number one deterring factor is the lack of affordable units in those areas.  Erin gave an example in Clay Arsenal in Hartford where over 54% of the units in the neighborhood are subsidized:

It is very hard for a neighborhood to succeed when government policy creates that concentration. It impacts everything from neighborhood infrastructure, to the ability to pay taxes to support municipal services, to schools. The tentacles of that policy decision spread out into so many areas. When people talk about things like the educational achievement gap, I talk about the opportunity gap, because this is so clearly about resources available.” – Erin discusses the concentration of subsidized housing in Clay Arsenal

Looking at the work of Richard Rothstein, Jack Dougherty, and the incredibly relevant recent research by OCA, it is clear that the current policies on homelessness and the locations and concentrations of affordable housing units are reinforcing the history of segregation and disinvestment in communities of color. When Kyle Smith ‘20 of the Trinity Homelessness Project asked Erin, “What should we be doing to try and solve these huge problems?” Erin explained that we got to where we are because a series of overtly and covertly racist policy decisions, and OCA’s policy agenda is driven by the research they have done with families most impacted by these housing decisions and their work in coalition with other groups, such as our community partners at Christian Activities Council. Erin said, “One piece of this is to ensure there are affordable housing choices in higher opportunity areas, and the other piece is to do investments in the areas that are struggling.”

Special thank you to the Department of Public Policy and Law, Joe Barber and the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement, the Trinity Homelessness Project, and Trinity Young Democratic Socialists.

Open Communities Alliance “is a Connecticut-based civil rights non-profit working with an urban-suburban interracial coalition to advocate for access to opportunity, particularly through promoting balances affordable housing development, including in thriving communities.” To learn more about OCA’s work visit



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Photo by Nick Caito.

Last week, high school students from the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) attended the Connecticut Supreme Court Justices “On Circuit” program here at Trinity College. On October 17th, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one criminal case and one civil case (details below). The program provided students and faculty the opportunity to see the appellate process first hand, and included a Q&A session with the litigators after each case. The Q&A sessions were facilitated by Professor of Public Policy & Law, Glenn Falk.

Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy students in Advanced Placement Government and Mock Trial were a perfect fit for the audience.

“We just started a unit on the Bill of Rights in my civics class, so this experience was really timely. The students enjoyed watching the appellate court proceedings and had a lot of questions about the first case, which we will discuss in class. Please continue to offer these educational opportunities because it not only supplements the learning, but extends the learning experience and helps our students make important connections to the real world.” – HMTCA Teacher

Professor Falks prepared the following descriptions of the cases:


The defendant Jean Jacques is appealing from his murder conviction.  Before his arrest, Mr. Jacques rented an apartment in Norwich, Connecticut on a month-to-month basis, paying rent to the landlord on June 10, 2015.   On July 15, 2015, while Mr. Jacques was incarcerated, the police entered the apartment with the landlord’s permission and found evidence which tied Mr. Jacques to the murder, including the victim’s cell phone and a plastic bag containing drugs with the victim’s DNA on it.


Austin Haughwout, a college student, sued various administrators at Central Connecticut State University after he was expelled for making statements and gestures related to guns and mass gun violence.  Mr. Haughwout claimed that the school violated his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Mr. Haughwout is appealing from the trial court decision which upheld his expulsion.  He seeks reinstatement as a student and the expungement of his record.

Thank you to Urban Educational Initiatives Director, Robert Cotto, Jr. and Renny Fulco, Director, Public Policy and Law Program, for organizing the HMTCA classes to attend this event.


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For 29 years, Trinity College has hosted the annual “Halloween on Vernon Street.” This event, held on the Sunday before Halloween each year, provides a space for children in the Hartford area to come trick-or-treating, make crafts, and play games to celebrate Halloween.

Yesterday, Trinity Greek life organizations and cultural houses such as Umoja House and La Voz Latina opened their houses on Vernon Street where they provided candy, games, and music for families in the Hartford area. 

Children and parents in costume with trick-or-treating bags lined the sidewalk awaiting check in with the organizers from ACES (Annual Community Events Staff). Once at the front of the line, groups of families were linked with a student volunteer who showed them the circuit around Vernon Street where they collected candy, played games with Trinity students, and of course checked out everyone else’s costumes. Our personal favorite was the inflatable dinosaur.

At the end of Vernon Street, at Trinfo.Cafe, sat the goldmine of all Halloween celebrations: the Trinfo pumpkin patch. Parents and kids alike were sent into the garden to search for their perfect pumpkin, and then brought it over to volunteers to make sure all the dirt was cleaned off an it was ready for decoration. Inside Trinfo, there was a space for movies and crafts for kids who needed some quieter time.


It’s safe to say that the 29th Annual Halloween on Vernon Street was a success. This event would not be possible without the leadership of Alex Donald ‘19 and Lexie Axon ‘19, of ACES, all the student volunteers, Carlos Espinosa and Arianna Basche at Trinfo Cafe, and of course Joe Barber and the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement.



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This essay was originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on September 7, 2018, and appears here with permission of the author.

Experiential education, an attempt to break down the barrier between classroom learning and everyday life, has long been a staple of professional disciplines. For the liberal arts, the partnership hasn’t come naturally. For many liberal-arts faculty members, an education should be for its own sake, not for job preparation.

Nonetheless, it is common now for liberal-arts colleges to advertise their embrace of experiential, “high impact” forms of education. These generally include place-based learning during study abroad, internships, civic engagement, and undergraduate research. Fully realized, the experiential liberal arts have the potential to transform higher education.

Large universities have taken the lead on this change. For example, my previous institution, Northeastern University, is fully connecting experiential education to the liberal arts. The university’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities has defined a model that links traditional liberal-­arts strengths (critical thinking, cross-cultural competency, etc.) with the long-established strengths in co-operative education that Northeastern is known for. In addition, it has embraced new competencies, particularly in areas such as data visualization, that clearly overlap with existing liberal-­arts disciplines.

Many traditional liberal-arts colleges, too, are embracing, if somewhat cautiously, forms of learning that would have been unthinkable in an earlier era. While business schools in those types of institutions are still rare, there has been a recent flowering of centers and programs focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. Such programs exist at Middlebury, Lewis and Clark, Bates, and Swarthmore, among other colleges.

At other liberal-arts colleges, some programs have long recognized the value of practical forms of education. Here at Trinity College, we have a distinctive, longstanding engineering program in which the very practical discipline of engineering is mixed with traditional liberal-arts skills. The logic for such a program is not simply to provide a practical route to employment within a liberal-arts context but also to bring the benefits of a rounded liberal-arts education to future engineers.

In truth, none of this should feel foreign. The value of practice, of doing, has long been taught across disciplines in liberal-arts colleges. The value of labs in the sciences has never been in question. Education theorists argue that doing is one of the surest pathways to learning. My discipline, geography, has a longtime commitment to fieldwork as a practice that reinforces the value of classroom learning.

Similarly, the arts disciplines insist on the need to actually play music, perform theater, and create sculpture as part of the education. Even in the seemingly rarefied worlds of philosophy, literature, and critical theory, there has been a turn toward worlds of practice and habit, which have too often been subordinated to the heady life of the intellectual.

Fully integrating experiential learning into the liberal arts is a bigger step, although with clear benefits for the employability of liberal-arts graduates. Employers point out that the kinds of things they are looking for in prospective employees include meaningful internships, global experience, civic engagement, and collaboration in addressing real-world problems. These are all features of experiential education.

But the benefits of the experiential liberal arts go well beyond employment in specific jobs. When students are encouraged to reflect on, and learn from, an array of experiences, they gain the skills to navigate their way through life and multiple careers.

To be most effective, the experiential liberal arts need to follow the general lead of experiential education and go beyond the academic-affairs divisions of our colleges. A successful experiential liberal arts will connect to the admissions and recruitment processes before students arrive on campus and to the career-advising and student-success divisions once they arrive.

Centering an admissions process on a series of numerical indicators derived from SAT or ACT scores is clearly not consistent with the goal of John Dewey, father of experiential learning, to include places other than the classroom in the concept of learning. The admissions process needs to take a more rounded view of the skills, talents, and varied forms of knowledge that are likely to signal an aptitude for integrated learning across a continuity of experience — a principle that means, in Dewey’s words, “that every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after.”

Such a process must recognize that valuable precollege experiences are not simply those that can be bought by well-to-do families, but also life experiences over which students often have little power, such as helping to raise siblings or dealing with an ill parent. Career services and student-­success programs play a role, too. A career office generally fails if it becomes simply a place to visit when you are close to graduation. Offices of career development and student success must be fully integrated into the learning experience throughout the years of college.

Administrators and faculty and staff members across all divisions of a college need to go about the business of curating an educational experience that creates the habits of mind conducive to continuous reflection and lifelong learning — habits that promote exactly the kind of self-knowledge that advocates of the liberal arts have always promoted.

Tim Cresswell is dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs at Trinity College, in Connecticut.


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Megan Faver Hartline is the Associate Director of the Office of Community Learning

 Where are you from where did you grow up? What brought you to Trinity?

I’m from Texas, but I haven’t lived there in 7 years. I moved to Connecticut a year and a half ago to work at Trinity after I finished my PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville.

Tell us about your work at Trinity.

I’m the Associate Director of Community Learning. I work on course based opportunities for students and faculty to engage with Hartford community partners. There are three main areas to my job: one is faculty development which involves working with faculty on their courses to help them create strong community learning components and to create projects that are beneficial to students and also to the community partners. The second piece is about student program development—credit-bearing or paid work for academic community engagement work. This includes the Community Action Gateway (first year learning community for students interested in creating social change) and the Public Humanities Collaborative (a summer research program for students interested in humanities including research with a faculty member and Hartford community partners). The third piece of my work is developing and strengthening relationships with Hartford community partners. This means I am meeting regularly with folks in the city to learn about their goals within their organizations and in the city as a whole. Then I can think about ways that Trinity faculty and students can help them reach those goals.

I’ll also say that one of the reasons I was excited to take this job is the long history of Community Learning at Trinity (which started in 1995!). I was excited to step into a position where there are faculty who have been invested in community learning for decades and great interest from new faculty to see how they can connect their course goals with community needs. Whether I’m working with long-term classes like Stefanie Wong’s Analyzing Schools and Dina Anselmi’s Child Development or newer courses like Sheila Fisher’s Prison Literature and Serena Laws’ Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford, I love that I get to be a part of continuing the story of how Trinity is invested in the city of Hartford.

What are your interests and passions?

Generally speaking: community development, overthrowing the patriarchy, political engagement, and Mexican food. I also like ballet and musicals. For a long time my Instagram bio was “I’m probably thinking about feminism or tacos.”

What are some of your favorite memories?

I think my favorite part of my job is connecting with students who are really invested in community learning opportunities. Whether that’s working with Community Action Gateway students or learning about the Research Fellows projects, it’s always really great to see what students are interested in and how they’re connecting what they’re learning about on campus to what’s happening in the city. One of my favorite memories was exploring Hartford with Gateway students last year. It was their first year in Hartford as well as mine, and we learned a lot together as a class. We learned about local organizations here and got out and around the city. We went over to the Wadsworth Atheneum and also checked out local cuisine such as First & Last for breakfast and Black Eyed Sallys. This year, we’ve gone to El Sarape and Mozzicato’s.

What else should people know about you?

I’m really invested in every tv show Mike Schur has created (fun fact: he’s from West Hartford). Also, I’m still really emotionally invested in Parks and Rec and (more recently) the Great British Baking Show.


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Megan Brown is the Director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab, a partnership between Trinity College, Capital Community College, and Hartford community partners.

Tell us about your work at Trinity College. What does a day in the life look like?

As Director of the Action Lab, I split my time between the students and the community. Most of my time on any given day is spent teaching students how to design and carry out action research projects with Hartford community partners. I personally supervise all Action Lab project team meetings every week to help guide and manage the projects, teaching students how to do research and how to work in a team. I also spend a good deal of time meeting with Hartford community groups, listening to their problems, and helping them define a researchable question that could turn into an Action Lab project.

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up or where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA, but I’ve lived in California, Illinois, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Maryland, North Carolina, and Connecticut. I live in Hartford now.

What are your interests?
I have my PhD in geography, and my research focuses on the shifting geographies of new labor movement campaigns, specifically the Fight for $15. I’ve always drawn inspiration for my research from the activist work that I’ve been a part of, and I became interested in how the labor movement is moving from traditional workplace organizing to city-based social movement-style organizing because of my time working in the labor movement in Seattle.

What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite moments are when students interact with the world outside of campus – whether its touring an old gold leaf factory that’s been slated for redevelopment, collecting surveys at a courthouse, or working through their research results with the people who proposed the project. What goes on in the classroom is always that much more meaningful when it travels beyond the walls.

What else should people know about you?
I’m a big women’s soccer fan, and am saving up for a trip to watch the World Cup in France next summer.

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In Community Learning courses, you can connect your liberal arts courses with on-the-ground projects in partnership with Hartford organizations. At Trinity, we define Community Learning as an experiential learning process that involves 1) collaborative partnerships and 2) perspective building relationships. Take a look at the Spring 2019 opportunities…

CLIC 299: Art and Community with Professor Clare Rossini

The course has two primary focuses: the role of the arts in individual and community identity formation and empowerment and the particular challenges of mentoring elementary-age students as they create art. Students in the course are scheduled for a minimum of 35 hours per semester in the arts classroom at the Hartford Montessori Magnet School. Trinity students are assigned a group at the school with whom they work throughout their time at the school, assisting the children as they make their art and, at times, collaborating with them on special projects.

CLIC 290: Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford with Professor Serena Laws

One way that the federal government attempts to address poverty is through income tax policy. This seminar will read and discuss broader debates over economic inequality, tax expenditures, wealth redistribution, and related social policies. In addition, for the community learning component, students will be trained to do income tax preparation, and volunteer for six hours per week to assist Hartford residents at the Trinity VITA Tax Clinic, located near campus at Trinfo Café.

HISP 280: Hispanic Hartford with Professor Aidali Aponte-Aviles

This course seeks to place Trinity students in active and informed dialogue with the Hartford region’s large and diverse set of Spanish-speaking communities. The course will help student recognize and analyze the distinct national histories (e.g. Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Chilean, Honduran, Cuban, Colombian, and Mexican) which have contributed to the Hispanic diaspora in the city and the entire northeastern region of the United States. Students will undertake field projects designed to look at the effects of transnational migration on urban culture, institution-building, and identity formation. (Also offered under the Latin American and Caribbean studies concentration of the International Studies Program.)

Fulfills GLB2, Requires HISP 221 or 224

RHET 320: Queer Rhetorics with Professor Nick Marino

This class is open to anyone interested in learning how rhetoric can create new knowledges and perspectives on diversity and inclusion. Specifically, we will apply rhetorical methodologies to US history, popular culture, politics, and law to research the formation of LGBTQ identities alongside mainstream identities in America. Our course moves from the rhetoric surrounding the 1960s Stonewall Riots through current debates about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and gay marriage. We also investigate the influence of alternative rhetorics, such as the subversive use of social media activism and the spatial arguments of gender neutral bathrooms. Students will take away the ability to rhetorically navigate key dialogues about gender and sexuality, as well as articulate how these debates influence research and knowledge creation in their majors.

Fulfills HUM

URST 321: Geographies of Transport with Professor Julie Gamble

Mobility is a permanent aspect of life. Transport infrastructures are a determinant of the spatial, economic, and social structures of cities. This course will introduce students to the spatial and social aspects of transportation and mobility across the globe. This course will act as a forum for research into transport and mobility, including debates on the planning and formation of transport policymaking.

Fulfills SOC, Requires URST 101

ENVS 310: Environmental Geophysics with Professor El Hachemi Bouali

This course will introduce students to near-surface geophysical techniques and their environmental applications. Lectures will provide the theory and background knowledge required to collect and interpret geophysical data. Hands-on exercises will allow students to gain experience in conducting geophysical surveys, operating equipment, and data analysis.

Fulfills NAT, Requires ENVS 112L and MATH 127 or higher

EDUC 200: Analyzing Schools with Professor Stefanie Wong

This course introduces the study of schooling within an interdisciplinary framework. Drawing upon sociology, we investigate the resources, structures, and social contexts which influence student opportunities and outcomes in the United States and other countries. Drawing upon psychology, we contrast theories of learning, both in the abstract and in practice. Drawing upon philosophy, we examine competing educational goals and their underlying assumptions regarding human nature, justice, and democracy. In addition, a community learning component, where students observe and participate in nearby K-12 classrooms for three hours per week, will be integrated with course readings and written assignments.

Fulfills SOC

ENVS 230: Environmental Chemistry with Professor Arianne Bazilio

This course will cover basic chemical concepts, such as polarity, volatility, and solubility, as they relate to chemical behavior in the environment. The ability to predict environmental behavior from chemical structure will be emphasized. Human and environmental toxicology will be discussed, and specific pollutants will be examined. Case studies will be used to illustrate concepts. The laboratory will emphasize techniques used for environmental analysis.

Fulfills NAT, Requires Chemistry 111L and 112L

LATN 105: Latin in the Community, with Professor Lauren Caldwell, F 1:15-3:55PM

Students will learn a curriculum designed for middle-schoolers (e.g. Aequora: Teaching Literacy with Latin) and read articles on Classics and community outreach to work with local schools (e.g. HMTCA) to support their Latin Club. This “lab” culminates in a final project (e.g. research poster or paper). Students who have taken at least one semester at Trinity are automatically eligible; students with at least one year of Latin elsewhere are eligible, with instructor’s approval. Requires 1 semester of Latin at Trinity or 1 year of Latin elsewhere (e.g. in high school).

Special thank you to Faculty Director of Community Learning, Jack Dougherty, and Associate Director of Community Learning, Megan Faver Hartline.


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Carlos Espinosa has been Director of Trinfo Cafe for 18 years and now also serves as Director of the Office of Community Relations.

Tell us about your work at Trinity and in the community. What does a day in the life look like for you?

A typical day is very high paced. Trinfo has merged with the Office of Community Relations which requires me to think more deliberately about where opportunities arise for collaboration across programmatic pieces. Some opportunities I’ve been thinking about include how to offer Trinfo’s technical skills in building WordPress websites for community organizations in Hartford, and how to strengthen the core community relationships we have within the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone groups in the neighborhoods that surround the College. The merger’s timing collided with a staff departure which offered another opportunity to strategically restructure staffing support for Trinfo and OCR. I’ve been the principle trainer of Trinfo’s new Program Manager and I have been learning the inner workings of OCR’s duties as director. Overall, there has been quite a bit of relearning old duties while learning new skills at the same time. I am able to see new opportunities that not only  deepen the connections between Trinfo.Cafe and OCR, but also look for ways to create new connections between CHER’s programs and its broader academic mission to create learning opportunities for Trinity’s students through deliberate engagements with Hartford’s residents and organizations.

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Hartford, not too far from campus in the Behind the Rocks neighborhood.

What are your interests and passions?

My interests range broadly between geeking out on old muscle cars and classic video games to civic engagement around politics and life in Hartford.

What is your favorite part about your job and/or one of your favorite memories?

My favorite part about my job is that no two days are seemingly the same. That constant along with the enthusiasm of college students keeps me energized.


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Arianna Basche is the Program Manager at Trinfo.Café & the Office of Community Relations

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut and attended Glastonbury High School. I graduated from Williams College in 2016, where I majored in English and got a certificate in Spanish– that’s like a minor. I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina when I was a junior in college. I currently live in Hartford.

What are your interests and passions?

I’m passionate about creative writing. In 2017, I published a reported piece in Hartford Magazine about local events that bring people together and foster community. I also wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant about overcoming the stigma of moving in with your parents, and another op-ed about free outdoor recreation offered by the CT Air Line Trail. I’m open to exploring any topic that interests me. I also play guitar and sing. I love yoga, and I’ve learned recently that I really like spinning, so that’s been an unexpectedly satisfying activity. Working at Trinity has already inspired me and opened me up to new perspectives, so I can’t wait to see how this influences my everyday creativity.

Tell us about your work at Trinity and in Hartford. What does a day in the life look like for you?

I am the Program Manager for both Trinfo.Café and the Office of Community Relations.  On the Trinfo side, I supervise a staff of Trinity student workers. Trinfo student workers provide cost-free computer literacy classes for adults, after-school programming for youth, and fun events for the community. I also work with the Trinity faculty who maintain Trinfo’s community garden.  

On the Office of Community Relations side of things, I represent the College at meetings for the Frog Hollow, MARG, and SWBTR Neighborhood Revitalization Zones. I’m there to help Trinity stay in the loop on what’s happening in the community, and vice versa. For example, at the last MARG meeting, I shared an announcement about the kickoff of Trinity College’s Chapel Music Series because it’s an event series that might interest our neighbors. I’m also on SINA’s REACH committee. And, if a community group wants to host an event on campus, I help to make that happen. 

I started working at Trinity in September. This is a new position, so I’m excited to see how my role evolves.



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Photo: Standing outside Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker, from L – R, Professor Stefanie Wong, Rob Johnson (8th grade teacher), Annie Moore ’22, Jonah Capriotti ’22, Ashley O’Connor (7th grade teacher), Rafael Villa ’21, Lexi Zanger ’19. 

EDUC 200: Analyzing Schools
Professor Stefanie Wong, Educational Studies
Trinity College, Hartford, CT

In “Analyzing Schools,” Professor Stefanie Wong students introduces students to the study of schooling within an interdisciplinary framework, drawing on sociology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy. Students combine their classroom learning about educational theories and settings with observing and participating in nearby K-12 classrooms for three hours per week. Through their classroom placements, students integrate theoretical readings with first-hand experiences in K-12 schools, deepen understandings and reflections on the contexts and inequities of urban schools and the purposes of education, develop meaningful relationships with students and teachers, and gain practical experience about teaching and curricula. Overall, the key goal of this course is to explore the central question: How can we best understand the practices, policies, and patterns in classrooms and schools in ways that enable us to create and sustain just, inclusive, effective, engaging, and pedagogically strong educational spaces?

Professor Wong explains the importance of community learning for Analyzing Schools, “The experiential component of the course allows students to connect course readings and themes to real life classroom experiences. As a result, they develop deeper understandings of how teaching and learning happens both in individual classrooms and within social contexts. Teachers also appreciate having Trinity students in their classrooms. They tell me about how helpful Trinity students are in supporting learning activities, and how much their students enjoy working with college students. Sometimes, Trinity students build lasting relationships with their teachers and schools, continuing to volunteer at the school beyond their course commitment.”

To successfully integrate classroom and community learning for her 26 students, Professor Wong constructs a detailed framework of logistical documents, writing assignments, and assessment opportunities for community partners. Together, these help her create mutually beneficial partnerships with local K-12 teachers and rewarding learning environments for students because she has crafted ways to stay organized in her approach to her community learning component and evaluate student work across multiple dimensions.

Logistical Documents

Professor Wong’s Scheduling Form and Participant Observation Contract allow her to set up school placements and set expectations with her students for when and how often they will be with their K-12 teachers.

Download (PDF, 286KB)

Download (PDF, 27KB)

Writing Assignments

Professor Wong asks her students to discuss their growing understanding of schooling by integrating what they have learned in her classroom and in their K-12 placement across multiple writing assignments. Here you can see several types of writing assignments: a reflection journal, a writing exercise, and two analysis papers.

Download (PDF, 72KB)

Download (PDF, 61KB)

Download (PDF, 79KB)

Download (PDF, 56KB)

Assessment Opportunities for Community Partners

To ensure that students are fulfilling their contracts and partners are benefitting from the students working in their classrooms, Professor Wong has included multiple opportunities throughout the semester for community partners to offer feedback on student work.

Mid-semester, Professor Wong sends teachers their first evaluation, which is ungraded but shared with students so they can see how they might grow. The assessment consists of a google form with the following questions:

1) Has your Trinity student been coming to your classroom as scheduled?
2) As a participant-observer, has your Trinity student been actively and meaningfully engaged in the life of your classroom?
3) Any additional comments or advice that you would like us to share with your Trinity student?

At the end of the semester, she sends another Google form, and the ratings provided comprise students’ grade for participant observation. Questions include:

1) Did the Trinity student responsibly schedule their time in your classroom, completing approximately 8 three-hour sessions (or the equivalent of 24 total hours) by the end of this semester?
2) As a participant-observer, was the Trinity student actively and meaningfully engaged in the life of your classroom?
3) Rate the Trinity student’s overall effort on the two items above. (1-10 scale)

Lastly, she asks some teachers who have coordinated student placements to attend and evaluate final project presentations by students, where they present a week-long curriculum for the grade and topic of their choice. Below is the form that students use in this process.

Download (PDF, 32KB)

Coordinating, integrating, and assessing community learning can be a complex, onerous task, but Professor Wong’s documents offer a map for how an instructor can successfully manage a community partnership project that is beneficial for her students’ learning and for helping partners meet their goals.

Interested in developing a Community Learning component for your course like Wong’s “Analyzing Schools”? Contact Megan Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning, for opportunities, resources, and feedback about this process. 


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Last week, Trinfo cafe kicked off its after school programming with community partner, Organized Parents Make a Difference (OPMAD). Trinity student, Kayla Betts ‘21, is leading weekly after school media literacy workshops at Environmental Sciences Magnet School and Kennelly Elementary School.

Kayla has experience assisting with the program in the past. This year, she took on the role as lead teacher.

“I love seeing the excited faces when explaining what the agenda will be for the class. The elementary school students enjoy the experience, and so does their teacher. “It’s rewarding to be able to work with bright students that have so many questions. It is honestly the favorite part of my day!” – Kayla Betts, ’21, Trinfo.Cafe Student Worker

In the photo above, Trinfo Cafe’s Program Manager Arianna Basche assists Kayla in teaching. The entire curriculum was developed by Trinity students.

To learn more, visit


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In the video above, Stefanie Chambers (Professor of Political Science at Trinity) and Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens ’13 (Community Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center) discuss their Community Learning partnership. Darby-Hudgens invited students in Chambers’s Pols 355: Urban Politics course to ride the bus and experience the Center’s “Hartford Fair Housing History Tour.” In turn, students are helping the Center to research and digitize archival materials to create a mobile-friendly digital version of the tour, in order to reach broader audiences. Ordinarily, a field trip in Hartford does not fulfill our definition of Community Learning, because these trips are typically one-way educational experiences. But in this case, Chambers and Darby-Hudgens created a two-way collaborative learning activity. Trinity students ride the bus to experience the tour and help the partner to create better materials for the digital version. As a result, everyone gains deeper and richer knowledge about ways of telling the history of fair housing in Hartford.


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Last week, ConnPIRG and the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement hosted the first “Trin Talk” of the semester, with the evening’s questions focused on social media and free speech. The organizers of Trin Talks say the goal is to get Trinity students engaged in meaningful conversation. They know students are having these conversations in their dorms, with friends, and on social media platforms. Trin Talks gives them an opportunity to have those conversations with people who think differently than they do.

In the video below, student panelists of different experiences, backgrounds, and opinions share their thoughts on the use of social media, racist posts that went viral over the summer, and responses they would like to see in the Trinity College community.

We extend a special thank you to Joe Barber, Director of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement, and organizer Trinna Larsen ’20 for coordinating coverage of the event.

We extend a special thank you to Joe Barber, Director of the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement, and organizer Trinna Larsen ’20 for coordinating coverage of the event.

The topic of free speech on campus could not be more timely as we welcome the Connecticut Supreme Court to Trinity’s campus on Wednesday October 17th. Two oral arguments will take place in the Washington Room beginning at 10:00 a.m. In one of the cases, Central Connecticut State University student Austin Haughwout sued administrators after he was expelled for making statements and gestures related to guns and mass gun violence.  Mr. Haughwout claimed that the school violated his right to freedom of speech and is appealing from the trial court decision which upheld his expulsion. 

We hope to see you on Wednesday for the oral arguments, and stay tuned for the next Trin Talk event by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Photo above: Members of the Hartford Resident Advisory Board reviewing Action Lab proposals with Director Megan Brown.

The Liberal Arts Action Lab received 20 proposals in September 2018 from prospective Hartford community partners, and each described a research question or problem that they would like help in answering. Last week, the Hartford Resident Advisory Board reviewed all of the proposals and prioritized 6 to advance to the next stage.

Students and faculty fellows are welcome to apply by Wednesday October 24, 2018 to join any of the Action Lab projects above. Depending upon scheduling and interest, we expect to support 4 teams during the Spring 2019 semester. Apply online, and read more details about each project below the form, at

  • Culinary Careers Project: Billings Forge Community Works asks for research to improve its training programs for entry-level food service workers to move into middle-income managerial jobs.
  • Neighborhood Needs Project: Southwest and Behind the Rocks Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) requests a community survey to better understand local needs and assets.
  • Student Success Project: West Indian Foundation asks for research to improve the integration of West Indian children and families into Hartford-area schools.
  • Colt Park Project: The National Parks Service and its Hartford partners seek a better model to estimate annual park usage and collect data about people’s experiences at Colt Park.
  • Latinx Theater Project: Hartford Stage requests local research with Hartford’s Latinx arts community to improve and expand their partnerships and programming.
  • Riverside Recapture Project: Riverfront Recapture asks for research with Hartford’s North End neighborhoods in guide their two-mile expansion of the Riverwalk trail system.

Video: Listen to Action Lab students and faculty describe how they learn with Hartford community partners.

Prospective students from Capital Community College and Trinity College are welcome to list up to 5 preferences. Students must be available to enroll in two Action Lab courses: LAAL 200 Action Research Methods in Hartford (for all students on Monday afternoons, around 1-4pm) and an LAAL 201 Hartford Research Project team (6 students, meets either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoons, around 1-4pm, or Wednesday evenings, around 6:30-9:10pm). Both will be taught by the Action Lab Director at our downtown campus, and successful students will earn 2 Trinity credits, which is the equivalent of 6 CCC credits. The Action Lab will inform students if they have been matched to a project team by early November, before pre-registration for the Spring 2019 semester.

Prospective faculty fellows are welcome to list up to 3 preferences. Your name will publicly appear online, to help us match you with prospective students. Full-time or part-time faculty, advanced graduate students, or staff with subject or method expertise, from Capital Community College, Trinity College, or other institutions in the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education, are welcome to apply. Fellows will provide academic guidance and evaluate student work for at least one semester, and must be available to meet with project team at least once a month (either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoons, or Wednesday evenings) at our downtown campus, plus one additional pre-semester meeting of all faculty fellows. (The Action Lab Director will supervise teams of students on a weekly basis.) The Action Lab will inform prospective fellows if they have been matched to a project team by early November, before students pre-register for the Spring 2019 semester. If selected, faculty fellows will receive a $1,000 stipend.

Contact the Action Lab if you have questions about the application process.


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Photo: ConnectiKids at their annual celebration in 2017. Photo credit to ConnectiKids, Inc.

Tomorrow marks the 40th birthday of our community partners at ConnectiKids, which we think deserves a huge shoutout and celebration. ConnectiKids Inc. is a nonprofit positive youth development agency that grew out of a dedicated group of people within the Asylum Hill Congregation who noticed students needed help in the community and began providing after school homework help. Today, ConnectiKids, Inc. is an all around powerhouse nonprofit organization focused on positive youth development and educating, enriching, and empowering Hartford’s youth.

Trinity has a long-standing partnership with ConnectiKids where over 50 Trinity students participate in the tutoring and mentoring program for K-8 students at West Middle Community School and Michael D. Fox Elementary School each year. Trinity students provide homework help and talk through any challenges or life goals the younger students are facing.

“We have always depended on Trinity students in our programs and they always deliver beyond what we ask. If I ask for volunteers, they’ll show up with 10 friends when I asked for 3. If I want to show our elementary and middle school students a tour of Trinity, they’ll say “I’ll show you! You can see my dorm!” And one of the best parts is that the Trinity tutors and mentors come back every year. So, some get started their Freshman year and we are seeing them show up  all the way through their four years. That’s important to the kids in our programs.” -Kiera Steele, ConnectiKids Program Director 

During the school year, ConnectiKids provides arts and enrichment programs such as cooking classes, martial arts, hip-hop and drumming. All in all, ConnectiKids, a organization made up of 2 full-time staff, some part-time program staff, and volunteers serves over 300 students per year. In the future, Kiera hopes to connect the elementary and middle school students with robotics and science clubs at Trinity.

ConnectiKids is celebrating their 40th Birthday Bash Friday October 12th from 5:30-10PM at The Marquee, 960 Main Street in Hartford. To learn more about this event and ConnectiKids, you can visit their website at



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Photo: HMTCA graduate Bea Dresser and Urban Educational Initiatives Director, Robert Cotto, Jr. at HMTCA graduation.

Bea Dresser ’22 is a current Trinity College student who attended high school at the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA). Urban Educational Initiatives, a CHER program directed by Robert Cotto, Jr., includes a long-standing partnership between Trinity and HMTCA. This initiative is an early college experience where HMTCA high school students all participate in summer writing and science programs, can apply to take a highly selective introductory college course, and participate in community learning projects and on-campus events and activities with Trinity faculty and staff. We asked Bea to tell us about her experience.

How was your transition from HMTCA to Trinity?
I believe my transition from HMTCA to Trinity was a different experience compared to my peers. For starters, I am very familiar with the campus and area. I found myself moving confidently into and out of the campus because HMTCA gave us several opportunities to walk around the neighborhood and explore niches of the South End independently.

What do you like most about Trinity so far?
I appreciate the resources and classes available at Trinity. I am currently in the Pre-Law Society, volunteering for Capitol Squash, and am working at the Trinfo Cafe. Additionally, I am taking interesting classes such as my political science course, “Prison and Justice in America.” I am able to tailor my experience to fit my career goals with ease because of the opportunities available at Trinity.

What advice would you give to current HMTCA students?
I would advise students at HMTCA to make the most out of their high school experience. For me, that meant going out of my comfort zone and becoming a leader in various groups across campus. Whether it is outside or inside the classroom, I suggest that you pursue something that makes you want to work hard, and once you find that continue to be an innovative leader within that capacity.

Urban Educational Initiatives connects the college community with nearby public schools, such as the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA), a grade 6-12 interdistrict magnet school with city and suburban students in an early college program. Contact Director Robert Cotto Jr.


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We proudly announce the launch of the new Center for Hartford Engagement and Research at Trinity College! CHER coordinates five core programs that connect us with the city: Community Learning, Community Service & Civic Engagement, the Liberal Arts Action Lab, Trinfo.Cafe, and Urban Educational Initiatives. Our mission is to strengthen educational partnerships between Hartford’s diverse communities and students, staff, and faculty at Trinity College.

Community Partners:
Submit your Action Lab Proposal by Sept. 28th

Do you have a research question that would help your Hartford neighborhood group, non-profit organization, government agency, or small business? Submit your one-page proposal by Friday September 28th at If our Hartford-resident advisory board prioritizes your proposal, we will work to recruit a team of Capital Community College and Trinity College faculty and student researchers to answer your question in Spring 2019. Recent Action Lab partners and projects:

  • Connecticut Fair Housing Center asked: How do Hartford residents and their families experience the eviction process?
  • HartBeat Ensemble asked: How can we promote “creative placemaking” in the Asylum Hill neighborhood without gentrification?

  • Hartford City Councilmember Wildaliz Bermudez and CT Open Communities Alliance asked: What are the best ways for Hartford to communicate with suburban residents about the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)?

  • Community Solutions International asked: How can we map relationships between neighborhood housing and health disparities in Northeast Hartford?

For questions or help with preparing your proposal, visit or contact Action Lab Director Megan Brown.

20th Annual Do-It Day Matches Over 350 Trinity Volunteers and Community Partners

On the 20th anniversary of Do-It Day, hundreds of Trinity students volunteered with community partners across Hartford — including cleanup with Friends of Pope Park, gardening with KNOX, Inc., creating props for Night Fall, and home demolition with Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance. Read more.

Welcoming HMTCA students to the Trinity Campus

Help us welcome the Fall 2018 Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy students! The Trinity-HMTCA initiative is an early college experience where high school students have the opportunity to enroll in summer writing and science programs, a highly selective introductory college course, and collaborate with Trinity faculty and staff in community learning projects and on-campus events and activities. Read more.

Community Learning:
Professor Seth Markle and Hartford Hip Hop Pioneers

Professor Seth Markle describes community learning in his “Global Hip Hop Cultures” course, where students conducted oral histories and created videos with Hartford’s artistic pioneers from the 1980s and ‘90s in collaboration with the Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library. Read more and watch the video, edited by Giovanni Jones ‘21.

We Value Community: Send Nominations for CHER Hartford Resident Advisory Board by Friday September 21st.

The CHER Advisory Board seeks nominations (including self-nominations) for Hartford resident members. Read more at and contact us by Friday September 21st.

Questions? Suggestions? Contact us at CHER.

Jack Dougherty, CHER Director

Erica Crowley, CHER Communications & Data Assistant

Joe Barber, Community Service and Civic Engagement

Megan Brown, Liberal Arts Action Lab

Robert Cotto Jr., Urban Educational Initiatives

Carlos Espinosa, Trinfo.Café

Megan Faver Hartline, Community Learning


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Bringing Together Five Community Engagement Programs
Nominations for CHER Hartford-Resident Advisory Board Members Sought by September 15

Image above: L-R: Jack Dougherty, Megan Faver Hartline, Morgan Finn, Megan Brown, Carlos Espinosa, Erica Crowley, Joe Barber, and Robert Cotto. (Photo by Nick Caito)

Hartford, Connecticut, September 5, 2018 – Trinity College has announced the creation of its Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER), bringing together five community engagement programs at the college to work as one group. The purpose of integrating the programs—some that have been operating at Trinity for decades and others launched in recent years—is to enable them to collaborate more closely and efficiently, strengthening connections among and between civically engaged members of the Trinity community and the Hartford community.

The inaugural director of CHER is Trinity Professor of Educational Studies Jack Dougherty, serving in a two-year faculty appointment that began in July 2018. The five CHER programs and their leaders are:

  • Community Learning—Associate Director Megan Faver Hartline (70 Vernon Street)
    Community Learning fosters academic connections with Hartford partners to deepen experiential learning through collaboration and perspective-building relationships. The program includes the Community Action Gateway Program for first-years and Public Humanities Collaborative summer research.
  • Community Service and Civic Engagement—Director Joe Barber (Mather Student Center, 300 Summit Street)
    Community Service and 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.
  • Liberal Arts Action Lab—Director Megan Brown (10 Constitution Plaza, downtown Hartford)
    The Liberal Arts Action Lab investigates problems identified by Hartford partners, with research teams of students and faculty from Capital Community College and Trinity College, proposing solutions that will strengthen the city.
  • Trinfo.Café—Director Carlos Espinosa (1300 Broad Street)
    Trinfo.Café bridges the digital divide with a neighborhood internet café that offers computer-literacy training for Hartford youth, adults, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations; provides space to community groups for meetings; and hosts a community garden that brings together residents alongside Trinity students, staff, and faculty.
  • Urban Educational Initiatives—Director Robert Cotto (70 Vernon Street)
    Urban Educational Initiatives connects the college community with nearby public schools, such as the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA), a grade 6–12 interdistrict magnet school with city and suburban students in an early college program.

CHER is under the oversight of Trinity’s chief academic officer, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Cresswell. “Trinity has an important role to play in advancing Hartford and the region,” said Cresswell. “One of the primary goals of the college’s strategic plan is to build on our strengths in connecting liberal arts learning to experiential learning here in Hartford. When students learn from an array of experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, they become more aware of the needs in the community, they discover their ability to help solve real-world problems, and they develop the capacity to learn how to learn from their experiences. This kind of educational experience provides distinct advantages, both to the students and the community at large.”

During the fall 2018–19 semester, Dougherty noted, more than 20 Trinity courses will be community learning courses, with faculty and students working closely with members of the community. Also during the fall semester, four Liberal Arts Action Lab research teams of Trinity and Capital Community College students are set to work with community partners on projects involving local food policies and sources; young adults and workforce opportunity; and homeownership.

At Trinfo.Café—where last year computer-literacy training was provided to more than 400 area residents—staff and Trinity students continue to provide a variety of computer-literacy workshops to Hartford residents and customized after-school and summer programming to youth at no cost to residents or community partners. In addition, through Urban Educational Initiatives, 17 high school seniors from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy will enroll in fall 2018 in an introductory-level course at Trinity as an early college experience.

Also, the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement will sponsor its 20th annual Do It Day, a volunteer event taking place this year on Saturday, September 8. Approximately 400 students, mostly Trinity student-athletes, will be deployed throughout the city to work on a variety of projects in collaboration with community organizations. Students’ efforts will include gardening, painting, cleaning, delivering furniture to formerly homeless people, housing rehabilitation, inspecting and packing food donations, picking up litter, and maintaining trails, parks, and the riverfront.

Dougherty said, “Given Trinity College’s mission—to engage, connect, and transform—an important aspect of CHER is to assess how students’ experiences and relationships with Hartford change over time and whether change is associated with meaningful participation in community engagement programs.”

CHER is seeking nominations, including self-nominations, for a CHER Hartford-Resident Advisory Board to offer guidance on goals and programs. Civically engaged Hartford residents who are looking for more connections between the community and the college are encouraged to apply by September 15. Members will be invited to two to three meetings per year; more information is available here.

A recent CHER focus-group session at Trinity included representatives from Achieve Hartford!, the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Interval House, and True Colors.


Dougherty said CHER also is conducting focus-group sessions with community partners to gather their input and ideas. A recent session included representatives from Achieve Hartford!, the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Interval House, and True Colors. Upcoming focus-group sessions are scheduled for September 12, 3:00–4:00 p.m., and September 13, 9:00–10:00 a.m., at 70 Vernon Street. Community partner organizations interested in participating in a CHER focus-group session should contact Dougherty at

For more information about CHER programs or to contact any of the individual programs’ staff members, visit the website of the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at


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We invite newer faculty to join our first cohort of Community Learning Faculty Fellows (CLiFF). Between 4-6 fellows will receive a $1,000 stipend to participate in four one-hour meetings during the academic year to discuss and design a Community Learning component to be taught in one of their upcoming courses. Eligibility is open to first-year and second-year faculty on tenure-track or multi-year visiting appointments.

At Trinity, we define Community Learning as an experiential component that builds connections between your students, your course, and people in the Hartford area. It involves collaborative partnerships that benefit all parties, and perspective-building relationships to deepen and extend liberal arts learning. We typically support 25 courses per semester, with offerings from nearly all departments and programs over the last several years. Read more about community learning and view a wide range of course descriptions.

Apply by Wednesday August 15th, 2018 at 4pm by sending your CLiFF proposal, no more than two pages, via email attachment to Associate Director Megan Hartline. See the application guidelines at