Trinity Students Work with Community Partners on Data Visualization Projects

Seminar Focuses on Finding ‘Better Ways to Tell Stories about Numbers’

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 5, 2017 – Trinity College students enrolled in the Data Visualization internship seminar recently presented their final data display projects with their community partners at Trinfo.Café. Students in this course learn to present data using interactive charts and maps to better tell the stories of their community partners. Jack Dougherty, professor of educational studies, said that the Data Visualization program “seemed like a great way to bring Trinity students and community partners together to learn something that they both wanted to benefit from.”

​Garry Lapidus (left), director of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics and public health at UConn School of Medicine, delivers a presentation with Brynne MacIver ’18.
Students in this semester’s seminar have worked with community partners including the Hartford Community Loan Fund, the CT Association for Human Services, and the Hartford Climate Stewardship Council. Click here for a full list of the community partners and links to their projects. Once Dougherty matches students with partner organizations, the students embark on semester-long internships with the community partners that result in final presentations that visually display the gathered data. In addition to an eight-hour-per-week internship, students are enrolled in a weekly seminar in which they learn how to use web tools and how to sift through open source data repositories. This internship seminar is sponsored by the Formal Organizations Program and the Community Learning Initiative, and is taught in conjunction with Dougherty’s online edX course, “Data Visualization for All,” which is open to the public.

This semester, psychology major Brynne MacIver ’18 worked with Garry Lapidus, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics and public health at UConn School of Medicine. MacIver and Lapidus sorted through 33,000 records of 911 phone calls related to domestic violence in Hartford from 2011 to 2016. “The goal was to calculate arrest rates by neighborhood in Hartford so resources and support can be allocated where needed,” MacIver said. “I displayed the information in an interactive map of Hartford, as well as a second map that breaks down the data year-by-year to view time trends.” Even without prior coding experience, MacIver used tools from the course to create a meaningful project that helped serve her partner organization and taught her something, as well. “I also learned about injury prevention in general and specific to Hartford, while gaining professional experience working with my community partner,” she said.

​James Jeter (left) of the Hartford Community Loan Fund and Nhat Pham ’18 present their data visualization project. Photos by Andrew J. Concatelli.
Nhat Pham ’18, an economics and mathematics major, has been working with Rex Fowler and James Jeter of the Hartford Community Loan Fund (HCLF) this semester. With the help of her community partners, Pham worked to monitor bank investment activity throughout Hartford, as the HCLF aims to provide affordable financial services to Hartford community members. Her work culminated in an interactive display of data that mapped banks in Hartford and their lending frequency.    

Dougherty explained that in today’s digital world, with seemingly endless amounts of information, the ability to take large amounts of data and demonstrate what it says using a simple map or chart is a valuable skill. “Both the Trinity students and the Hartford organizations have one thing in common: they are trying to find better ways to tell stories about numbers,” Dougherty said.

Click here to learn more about the program, students, and community partners.

Written by Sophia Gourley ’19