Mission & History

Community Learning fosters academic collaborations among students, faculty and community partners by extending the boundaries of the classroom into the local community. These collaborations deepen students’ abilities to comprehend, apply, synthesize, and evaluate their learning, while at the same time creating and sharing knowledge with others, which has the potential to inform and improve life in our communities.  Community Learning is not limited to a specific area of study:  it serves all students, regardless of their discipline, from their first year seminars through senior projects.  It deepens students’ commitment to the values of the liberal arts by promoting thoughtful, reflective learning, while cultivating civic engagement and commitment to social responsibility that has the potential to transform students’ understanding of the world and their role in it.

Trinity’s CLI was unveiled in the fall of 1995 at an event attended by twenty-five interested faculty members. CLI offered training for students, logistical support, and curricular ideas for faculty. By the spring, several courses with community learning components were scheduled.

Today, CLI features some 30 courses each year and serves as a model for other colleges and universities. Our community learning program involves almost all of our academic departments and a wide variety of community organizations. About half of each graduating class has completed at least one CLI course. ​​

Community learning connects science and the public good in testing children's toys for lead.

When lead levels in Chinese-made toys became a hot news item, Trinity's Dr. Alison Draper asked her community learning class to investigate in time for the holiday season.

"It was a way for the students to be real scientists and also to see how science can be used for the public good," she explains. The students purchased small toys from China—suitable for both boys and girls aged 2 to 5—at retail outlets in three different Hartford neighborhoods.

When they tested the toys' lead levels, the data revealed that only one toy of the 73 tested contained a discernable amount.

Impressed with the students' work, Connecticut State Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr., invited the class to participate in a televised press conference. The reporters' questions introduced the students to the demand for simple answers about complex scientific data.