First Trinsition Fellows Prepare to Say Goodbye to Trinity and the Bantam Network

Leaders of First-Year ‘Nests’ Look Back at Program’s Achievements and their Favorite Memories

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 16, 2017 – When the Bantam Network was launched in 2015, five Trinsition Fellows were hired to help first-year students transition to college life. As they near the end of their two-year fellowships, the first Trinsition Fellows said that they are proud of the work they have done in helping to establish the 10 “nests” as new communities for first-year students. “We’ve helped build something really amazing,” said Trinsition Fellow Consuelo Pedro ’15.


​Trinsition Fellows Chanel Erasmus ’15, M’17, Taniqua Huguley ’15, M’17, Consuelo Pedro ’15, Meredith Friedman, and Alex Conaway ’15, M’17, conclude their two-year fellowships this summer.
Joe DiChristina, dean of campus life and vice president for student affairs, said, “The five fellows are the foundation of the success of the Bantam Network.” Having recent college graduates on the staff is helpful, DiChristina said, because they understand the culture, the resources, and the pathways to academic success. “If you moved to a new neighborhood, you’d want somebody who could walk you around to those other houses and give you a chance to meet people. That’s what the fellows have done. They get to know the students individually and can help them tap into the resources to get students connected to the right place,” he said. 

New Trinsition Fellows will join the College staff in July. Before they leave campus, the inaugural Trinsition Fellows had the chance to reflect on their time at Trinity:

 

Alex Conaway ’15, M17, from New Haven, Connecticut, was an education studies major at Trinity and said that he always knew that he wanted to work in education. “I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be a teacher, a principal, or maybe a high school basketball coach,” he said. “I took a class called ‘Higher Education in America,’ and that’s when I fell in love with the idea of working at a college. I liked the idea of helping students figure out what they want to do. That’s something that definitely interested me.”

Having served as a P.R.I.D.E. leader for three years as an undergraduate, Conaway already had some experience mentoring first-year students before he applied to become one of the first Trinsition Fellows. “I thought this job would be a perfect fit for me,” he said. He wanted to help make first-year students feel more welcome and connected on campus. “My first year on the basketball team here, we had a few first-year students who transferred or quit the team. If the Bantam Network had been in place then, I think there would have been a better chance of them staying. There were a couple of guys who felt like there was nobody to talk to about the issues they were having. A recent college graduate is really someone who can listen to them and help them.”

Conaway enjoyed being accessible to first-year students in his nests by having an office in a residence hall. He said he also saw benefits to being able to introduce students to faculty members in social situations outside of the classroom. “They see that the faculty are real people, not just professors,” he said.

Some of Conway’s favorite memories include taking students on trips to New York City. “Once, a student from LA came with us, and he was amazed by how easy it is to get from Trinity to New York on the train to visit friends,” he said.

Conaway has completed his masters in American studies and plans to continue his career in higher education in the field of athletic administration.

 

Chanel Erasmus ’15, M’17 came to Trinity as a January recruit for the women’s squash team after graduating from high school in South Africa just a month earlier. “I did have a pretty tough transition and I wasn’t sure if this was a place for me. I was incredibly homesick and had some trouble academically,” Erasmus said. Her own first-year experience made her want to become a Trinsition Fellow and help to create a smooth entry into college life for other students. “I did have a wonderful time at Trinity and it shaped me into who I am today, but those first three months of being in college in a new place were not easy. I relate to students who are falling through the cracks and are very good at hiding that they are struggling because I was one of those,” she said.

Erasmus, who completed a major in theater and dance at Trinity, enjoyed finding shared interests with first-year students and connecting them with resources on campus. Erasmus and Trinsition Fellow Consuelo Pedro ’15 regularly invited students on outings to shops and restaurants in downtown Hartford to help introduce them to the city. “Hartford has become my home,” Erasmus said. “I do volunteer work at the Mark Twain House and have brought students to the Wadsworth Atheneum, to see plays at The Bushnell, and to The Connecticut Forum. I think it’s really important that students get exposed to Hartford and learn to love the city that they are calling home for the next four years.”

Some of her favorite memories from her time as a fellow include her weekly Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club meetings, during which Erasmus would make pancakes in the common space and talk with students about classes and whatever was on their minds. Erasmus also enjoyed bringing students to downtown Hartford, hosting alumni events with the Women’s Leadership Council, and offering networking opportunities and a winter formal.

Erasmus is completing her master’s degree in public policy and plans to continue her career in education.

 

Meredith Friedman, from Ridgefield, Connecticut, earned her bachelor’s degree with a double major in politics and art & visual culture from Bates College and her master of fine arts degree in studio art from American University. After being involved with student government and many clubs at Bates, Friedman said she took to the job of Trinsition Fellow naturally. “I used to make four-year plans for all my friends,” she said. “So when first-year students would come to me around registration and say they don’t know what to do or that they weren’t interested in anything being offered, I would run through course offerings with them and have conversations with them to try to tease out what they were good at and what they enjoyed. Often by the end of the conversation, the student had an epiphany and thought, ‘I actually do like this. This is what I should be studying.’ The next semester I would see them blossom and be excited about their course work and future academics.”

Friedman said she enjoyed being a source of information for students while providing them with a sense of stability. “There’s always a person there for you if you have a question,” she said of the role of the fellows. “We’ve collaborated with offices across campus to do different events, and it’s helped us to connect and support students in a really great way.”

When planning events and outings, Friedman tried to take her cues from the students and their interests. “I received an e-mail from a student saying that the circus was in town and he asked if we could go, so we planned that trip simply because somebody asked about it,” she said.

As the only one of the five fellows who did not attend Trinity as an undergraduate, Friedman said she had some catching up to do at first. “It pushed me to really get to know the resources of the College. After a month or so, I knew the ins and outs of Trinity and was able to see it with fresh eyes, which was helpful when it came to discussions about how to shape the Bantam Network and improve the first-year experience,” she said. “Leaving is bittersweet because Trinity feels like my home now. I’ve only had two years here, but this was such an amazing opportunity, and I feel so lucky that I was able to grow professionally here.”

Friedman plans to continue her career working in higher education.

 

Taniqua Huguley ’15, M’17, who came to Trinity as a Posse Scholar from Queens, New York, majored in sociology and minored in legal studies. “I originally wanted to go to law school after college. I did a lot of mentoring on campus and in the Hartford area, so that sparked my interest in serving as a mentor on another level,” Huguley said about why she wanted to be a Trinsition Fellow. “I knew that although I was outgoing and proactive, there are students who are struggling. I think my first year at Trinity was my best year, so I wanted to share that experience with the incoming students. That first year is what makes you want to stay.”

By consistently inviting students to events both on campus and in Hartford, Huguley worked to encourage students to have new experiences – and even to plan and promote events themselves. “Pushing students to do things themselves is really important,” she said. “There’s no reason why they have to wait until their second year.”

The fellows agreed that being recent college graduates themselves made a big difference when it came to understanding the challenges faced by first-year students. With her own time as a Trinity undergrad fresh in her mind, Huguley said she could relate easily to her students on topics from course selection to issues with roommates. “My own experiences helped me to think, ‘What would I have done?’ ”

Huguley said that her greatest reward as a fellow came from seeing the growth of her students. “My favorite type of experience was seeing that shy or self-centered student step outside of their box and go to an event in Hartford or join a club, she said. Seeing a student evolve over the semester and gain a leadership position on campus is really exciting to me. I felt like I also had to become more knowledgeable of things outside of my comfort zone and my own life.”

With her master’s degree in public policy complete, Huguley will spend 10 months in Trinidad and Tobago studying the girls’ juvenile justice system on a U.S. Student Fulbright research grant.

 

Consuelo Pedro ’15, from Trinidad and Tobago, majored in neuroscience at Trinity and said she had an ideal first-year community that supported her when she was new to both college life and the country. “I lived in Little Residence Hall, which was where Crescent Street is now,” she said. “It was a tiny building, and we all just pulled together. There were all types of students, and we all got along.” The idea of creating a community like that for first-year students as a Trinsition Fellow was instantly appealing. “I thought, ‘I had such a great experience. If I could reproduce that, that would be amazing,’ ” Pedro said.

Having the fellows work in the spaces where the first-year students live provided a unique opportunity for honest conversations, Pedro said. As they learned about a particular student’s questions or struggles, the fellows could address those needs. “The fellows are like a compass,” Pedro said. “We don’t know everything, but we can guide the students in the right direction. Every student will have a different combination of needs, and what we do is plug them into the right resources.”

The fellows also could make connections between the academic and the social spheres on campus by inviting faculty members for intellectual conversations in the common spaces. Nest events often led to introductions between people who otherwise may not have met, Pedro said.

One of the things Pedro enjoyed most was taking groups of students to Hartford every Friday. “I didn’t grow up in a city setting, so I had to learn how to take the bus and get around on my own. In this role, I really enjoy providing that experience to students,” she said.

Pedro said she believes the next Trinsition Fellows will continue to improve the first-year experience at Trinity and build on the sense of community that is being fostered. “I believe in the community of this institution,” she said. “This is family to me, especially being an international student. My students were my family.”

Pedro will soon begin a doctor of physical therapy program.

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli