Trinity to Begin 190th Year with New Class, New Faculty and New Features

Reinvented Social Center and New Residence Halls among the Many Changes

The approximately 605 first-year students who will descend upon Trinity in coming days will represent one of the largest classes in recent memory, as well as one of the more diverse, with young men and women hailing from 34 states and an identical number of countries.

Together, they will embark on a four-year journey that will introduce them to the joy, wonders and challenges of a liberal arts education, ultimately preparing them for graduate school and/or a fulfilling career and adulthood.

In conjunction with returning sophomores, juniors and seniors, the Class of 2017 will see a campus that has been modestly transformed over the summer with the renovation of the former Vernon Social Center, the completion of new townhouse-style residence halls on Crescent Street and the makeover of Gallows Hill and Boyer Auditorium in the Alfred C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center.

According to Larry Dow, dean of admissions and financial aid, Trinity hit its target in terms of the first-year enrollment, with students drawn from an applicant pool of 7,653 aspiring Bantams. The first-year class includes 317 men and 288 women, as well as 100 students of color from the United States and 68 international students.

In terms of their interests, Dow reported that 33 percent said they intend to major in math or science; 31 percent said the social sciences; 18 percent said the humanities; and 18 percent are undecided. Their states of origin (in descending order of enrollment) are Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois.

“In addition to being academically strong, the members of the Class of 2017 include students who have also been engaged in a number of extremely interesting activities,” said Dow.

One student was an angler, another worked for a mining company and a third owned a catering business, said Dow. Among the students’ extracurricular activities are roller derby, glass blowing, re-enacting Revolutionary War scenes, performing with the Boston Ballet and earning a pilot’s license. One student founded Save our Land and Rise (SOLAR), which provides solar lights to rural villages in India.

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 Orientation activities for first-year students get underway Thursday, although many upperclassmen will arrive over the Labor Day weekend in anticipation of classes beginning on Tuesday, September 3. Of the upperclassmen, nearly 200 will move into Phase I of the Crescent Street residence halls, marking the first time that townhouse-style suites will be available as living quarters.

The suites, which house eight or nine students each depending on the unit, come with fully outfitted kitchens, washers and dryers, first-floor living and dining rooms, and a full bathroom on the second and third floors. Phase II of the Crescent Street project will be completed before the start of the spring 2014 semester, bringing the total number of beds to 353.

The attractive brick and shingle buildings are energy efficient and will have two resident advisers and two faculty members living in the complex. Parking will be available in an adjacent lot, and campus safety officers have been assigned to patrol the area during designated shifts.

The other major infrastructure improvement that students, faculty and staff will notice is the complete redesign of Vernon Social Center into a student center, now called Vernon Social, which is a multi-faceted facility where students can eat, study, listen to music, warm themselves around three large fire pits or just hang out.

Among the amenities are a Goldberg’s restaurant featuring a coffee bar, bagels and other breakfast foods and deli sandwiches; a Chartwells dining facility offering Mexican food and having a convenience store; outdoor and indoor multi-colored tables and chairs; five TVs with cable channels that students cannot receive in their residence-hall rooms; bleacher seating; and a bar that is expected to open occasionally and, it is hoped, will offer beer and wine. A grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, September 7.

Although this remodeling may be less apparent, Gallows Hill will be the new home of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Trinity Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (TIIS). A seminar room with state-of-the-art technology has been added. Boyer Auditorium in the Life Sciences building has been renovated and will be smaller and more intimate and have better acoustics. Lastly, a clock has been placed atop the Austin Arts Center.

Aside from the physical changes to the campus, on the academic side, a major change is the return of Thomas Mitzel, who began work as dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs on July 1. Mitzel formerly worked at Trinity as a chemistry professor and associate academic dean, before leaving to become a dean at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX.

Joining Mitzel in the academic dean’s office will be Sonia Cardenas, whose new title is associate academic dean and professor of political science. Filling in for Cardenas as director of the Human Rights Program for the next three years will be Donna-Dale Marcano, associate professor of philosophy.

Other changes on the academic front include the hiring of eight tenure-track faculty members: Katherine Bergren, assistant professor of English; Elizabeth Casserly, assistant professor of psychology; Shane Ewegen, assistant professor of philosophy and classics; Tamsin Jones, assistant professor of religion; Isaac Kamola, assistant professor of political science; Michelle Kovarik, assistant professor of chemistry; Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, assistant professor of history; and Josh Stillwagon, assistant professor of economics.

Beginning this semester, the College will offer an urban studies major that has been specifically designed to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of how urban dynamics shape both global interdependence and local spaces. The major is the 39th to be offered at Trinity.

Under the proposal developed by Xiangming Chen, dean of the Center of Urban and Global Studies and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology, and Garth Myers, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Urban International Studies, students will be able to take advantage of the College’s commitment to urban studies by enrolling in courses on the Trinity campus and with local partner schools, engaging in community learning projects in Hartford, studying in international cities, and doing internships in a variety of urban settings.

At the master’s degree level, the College is adding an educational studies program that’s aimed at secondary school teachers and administrators who want to broaden their knowledge of the changes and challenges involving education. Educational studies will be a concentration within the public policy major.

Among the issues covered will be educational reform, the federal government’s new core requirements, the funding of education, quality of outcomes and education law. The program also will deal with higher education policy and secondary education issues that directly affect higher education.

Photos by Al Ferreira