New Trinsition Fellows Guide Incoming Students During Their First Year at Trinity

The Bantam Network Continues to Support the Transition to College Life

​(Left-right) Trinsition Fellows Tim Hobart, Thalia Giraldo, Sheila Njau ’17, Monica Mhina ’17, and Maria Dyane ’17

​Hartford, Connecticut, August 21, 2017 – This fall, five new Trinsition Fellows will help welcome first-year students to the Trinity campus and guide their transition to college life. Maria Dyane ’17, Thalia Giraldo, Tim Hobart, Sheila Njau ’17, and Monica Mhina ’17 began their two-year fellowships in July, after the inaugural team of Trinsition Fellows completed their time with the Bantam Network in June.

The Bantam Network program, which was launched in 2015, began when President Joanne Berger-Sweeney asked Trinity students to help design a system to support the first-year experience. The Bantam Network enables students to get to know each other, the faculty, and staff members, offers the support that new students want, provides dedicated spaces to work and relax, and allows students to become more deeply acquainted with the resources of Trinity and Hartford. Each fellow works directly with two “Nests” of about 60 first-year students each.

​Maria Dyane ’17
Lemon Nest and Washington Nest

​Thalia Giraldo
Cannon Nest and Lockwood Nest

​Tim Hobart
Minty Nest and Roosevelt Nest

Monica Mhina ’17
Elms Nest and Olmsted Nest​

​Sheila Njau ’17
Book Nest and Brownell Nest

The three fellows who are Trinity alumnae are looking forward to taking what they learned from their own time as undergraduates to help improve on that experience for others. Mhina, who is from Tanzania, said that she did not connect with many people early on during her first year on campus. She helped develop the Bantam Network, and now as both a recent graduate and a Trinsition Fellow, she will have the ability to guide students in forming new bonds. “I have been where the first-year students are. Four years ago, I was in their shoes, and I managed to find my place at Trinity. All the connections I’ve made as a student, and the connections I’ll be making as a staff member, will be very helpful in helping them,” Mhina said.

Dean of Campus Life and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe DiChristina said that the Trinsition Fellows have worked closely with campus partners this summer to fully understand how they can assist new students at Trinity. “The new fellows have shown the energy needed to take on this responsibility,” DiChristina said. “I am sure that our new students will find that the support they receive through the Bantam Network will help them achieve success at Trinity College.”

Hobart, who grew up in Massachusetts and is a graduate of Union College and the University of St. Andrews, said that his own undergraduate experience has some things in common with the goals of the Bantam Network. Union’s system of Minerva Houses, which are similar to Nests, organized events and classes for students in a particular residence and offered comfortable spaces that were important to Hobart’s undergraduate experience. “Sometimes in residence halls, you don’t have the common space or the convenience to lay down on the couch that you might normally want, and that was one of the things the Minervas did really well. You can see that in what the Bantam Network is doing here; there is space for students just to go and lounge and watch TV,” he said.

Giraldo, a Colby College graduate from Queens, New York, who received a scholarship from the Posse Foundation, said she wishes she had access to something like the Bantam Network when she was a student. “I had a rough transition that first year at Colby because there were foods that I wasn’t used to, the party scene I wasn’t used to, cultures and values and ways of living that were very different from what I was used to,” she said.

However, all of the Trinsition Fellows noted that experiencing some discomfort is to be expected upon arriving for one’s first semester at college. According to Dyane, it is perfectly normal for a first-year student to feel like a fish out of water initially. That is how she felt in American college culture after moving to Hartford from her home in Morocco. “It’s okay to feel awkward,” she said. As she helps first-year students adjust to their new surroundings, Dyane plans to remind them that college is not about fitting into some sort of mold, but about being your own person.

Mhina also said that she will encourage each student to embrace their individuality. “When those admissions counselors were going over your application and choosing you, they saw you for you, and they admitted you for you. You do not need to try to fit in,” Mhina said. “They knew you had something you could bring to the community, and I want students to be proud of that.”

With advice like this and more, the Trinsition Fellows consider themselves to be like older siblings to the first-year students. Njau, who is originally from Kenya, said that she and the other fellows are there to help, no matter what the issue is. “I want to be approachable. I want to be the kind of person people feel comfortable coming to,” Njau said. “Even if we don’t share the same backgrounds and experiences, I’m still a person who is willing to listen.”

All five of the fellows are pursuing master’s degrees in public policy at Trinity. 

To learn more about the new Trinsition Fellows and their goals for the next two years, watch their brief introductory videos here.

Written by Matt Grahn