Winning Mentoring Networks Design Announced, Highlights Engagement with Campus and City

Class of 2019 Will Be Supported by the Bantam Network

Hartford, CT, March 9, 2015 – The students, dozens of them, had been working on campus Sunday since 8:30 a.m., and now it was 6 p.m. at the President’s residence. They were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, aching to hear which one of their teams had taken first place in an intense competition to design Trinity’s new system of mentoring networks.

Members of the winning Mentoring Networks Design Challenge team with Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience.
 Charged last fall with designing mentoring networks that would strengthen the interaction of Trinity students with each other, the campus, and the city of Hartford, they were at the end of their project’s road. Some students chattered excitedly. Others stood quietly. Still others gathered in groups, speaking in low voices as they weighed their chances. “This is a very exciting time,” said Monica Mhina ’17, “The project will determine how generations of freshmen will experience Trinity.”

Unlike other competitions where the judges sat straight-backed in a panel at the front of a room, this one allowed for plenty of mingling. The judges had gathered at Trinity that day for presentations by the student teams in different locations around campus. Famed New York restaurateur Danny Meyer ’80 chatted with a gaggle of enthused students. “This has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at Trinity College,” he said. The Boston architect George Marsh, his daughter a Trinity first-year student, spoke quietly with fellow judge Kristin Triff, associate professor of fine arts, as Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience, hopped from one group to another, checking in, eliciting laughter, sharing her sentiments. “I was so proud, there were tears in my eyes as I heard the students present their ideas,” she said while greeting guests entering the foyer of the public rooms of her home. “They helped me understand Trinity in a way I had not previously.”  

Earlier in the day, five student groups had presented their designs to the judges. The project, Berger-Sweeney said, bloomed from the College’s goal of extending the social life on campus. Her video announcement to campus last fall set the design phase of this process in motion.

She stood at a lectern to announce the winner. “As we make the final design, we will use parts of all the proposals,” she told the crowd. Then, “the overall best design: Group 4, the ‘Bantam Network!’” A brief moment of silence followed as the teams processed her announcement, and then energetic applause erupted.

“I like how the proposal integrated the academic and the social,” said Lisa-Anne Foster, associate professor of biology and one of the judges. “I liked the connection to Hartford,” said Meyer. Marsh added praise for runner-up Team 1’s proposal: “I liked how they integrated the outdoors and the indoors and how they used resources that are already here.”

The Bantam Network’s poster in the dining room displayed its concepts: 10 nests, 65 students per nest, comprising four thematically different first-year seminars to foster scholastic engagement and communication within living spaces.

Members of the campus community gathered at Vernon Social to offer feedback to the design teams preparing
their proposals.
 Clustered within their groups, the students processed the outcome. “We tried to hearken back to Trinity history and tradition,” said Madison Ochs ’18, a member of the winning team. “We’re proud to have won and to be able to have a hand in this. I’ll be able to see my legacy being implemented while I am here at Trinity.”

Students on other teams talked about how their own first-year experiences shaped their approach to the project, including Julianna Maisano ’17, who struggled to adapt. She became involved with the Women and Gender Resource Action Center, which paired her with a mentor with similar interests. “It really helped me to be more comfortable at Trinity,” she said.

Sunday’s announcement marked the conclusion of a months-long process that involved students, faculty, administration, and alumni collaborating and competing to design this new approach to integrating first-year students into the Trinity community, one that, President Berger-Sweeney said, “will continue with the students for four years and beyond.”

Last week, the campus community was invited to preview the student teams’ designs and provide feedback that the students could consider before their final presentations to the judges. On Thursday, scores of Trinity students, faculty, and staff joined the teams in Vernon Social to help the teams cross the finish line.

“The feedback was so helpful,” said Molly Thoms ’17, a member of the winning team. “It really helped us focus and solidify our ideas. We paid more attention to physical spaces and made a point to highlight the inclusion of IDP students and commuters.”

As the design phase comes to a close, the College turns its efforts to implementing the students’ ambitious plans. So, when the Class of 2019 arrives on campus in August, they will join their nests, supported by those who know best what it takes to successfully engage with the Trinity community. They, and incoming students for years to come, will be supported by the Bantam Network.

Click here for a complete list of team members and judges.
Photos by John Atashian.