Community Learning Initiative Connects Students and the City

Research Fellows Make the Most of Symbiotic Relationship between Trinity and Hartford

Hartford, CT, May 8, 2015 – It’s no secret that Trinity students learn from their surroundings every day; the College’s location in Hartford is a centerpiece of the Trinity experience. But through the Community Learning Initiative (CLI), students engage with the city in ways that make the most of that relationship for both sides, conducting research in partnership with local community organizations and educational institutions. Several of those students and their community partners recently presented their research for the campus community.

The research – on refugee resettlement, recidivism, and middle school student performance – was conducted over the last year by Trinity students collaborating with community partners under the guidance of faculty advisers. The experience gave the students the opportunity to tackle real-world challenges while honing their research techniques and learning from their surroundings. The collaboration creates a symbiotic relationship that benefits the students as well as their partners.

Melody Fulton ’15 and Jennifer Schackner ’15 present their research with HMTCA's Debra Avery and advisers Dina Anselmi and David Reuman.
 Melody Fulton ’15 and Jennifer Schackner ’15 conducted their research in the classroom of Debra Avery, a teacher at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. Under the advisement of Dina Anselmi and David Reuman, associate professors of psychology, Fulton and Schackner tested the effects of metacognitive and mindfulness instruction on five classes of eighth grade students.

“The mindfulness instruction set a really nice tone for the class,” said Avery. “I’d really like it to become a part of our classroom routine.”

Salima Etoka ’15 worked with the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association and adviser Alta Lash, visiting lecturer in urban studies. Her project, “Refugee Resettlement in Hartford,” examined the successes and challenges of resettlement agencies in connecting refugees to employment and housing services as well as the challenges facing refugees during and after resettlement. Through a series of interviews, she identified best practices and challenges facing the process.

For his research project, “Reducing Recidivism in Hartford,” Sean Navin worked with adviser Stefanie Chambers, associate professor of political science, and Community Partners in Action, a local organization that works with people affected by the criminal justice system. Navin conducted interviews with ex-offenders and compared Hartford to other cities around the United States, identifying approaches to re-entry services that could potentially reduce recidivism in Hartford.

Though the CLI fellows’ research was featured, the program included other highlights of Trinity’s connection to the community. Nicole Katav ’17 and Brayan Duarte ’18, two students in Trinity’s Moylan Mentors program, shared their experience as mentors at Hartford’s Moylan Elementary School as well as a video about the program.

In all, there are 10 Trinity students involved in the Moylan Mentors program, each working with two mentees. While the students were glad to serve as mentors and role models for young people in the city, they found that they got as much from the experience as the kids.

“It wasn’t only beneficial for the students,” said Duarte. “We learned a lot, too.”

The event concluded with a musical performance by Women on Our Own, a singing and spoken word group of women who have resided at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. The group is a part of the Judy Dworin Performance Project, led by Judy Dworin, professor of theater and dance.

In December 2014, CLI fellows conducting semester-long research presented their findings to the Trinity community.

Photos by John Atashian.