Community Learning Research Fellows Share Their Projects at Capstone Event

Students Partner with Local Organizations on Community-Based Research

Isabelle Moore ’18 and faculty sponsor Cameron Douglass

Hartford, Connecticut, December 31, 2015 – Isabelle Moore ’18 learned about food deserts – areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food – when she took part last year in an alternative spring break project in New Orleans. After returning to Trinity, she mentioned to a professor that she would like to research access to food in Hartford. That’s when she heard she could apply for a Community Learning Research Fellowship, through which students work closely with faculty sponsors and community partners to research and address important topics and challenges in the community.

Moore’s project, “Fighting the Hartford Food Desert,” on which she partnered with Billings Forge Community Works, was one of four spotlighted at a December 15 capstone event in Trinity’s Hallden Hall North Common Room. The Fellows were stationed next to large presentation posters they created, eager to discuss the goals and findings of their projects as attendees circulated through the room. Moore’s faculty sponsor, Cameron Douglass, Thomas McKenna Meredith ’48 Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Science, was among the crowd in attendance.

Community Learning (CL) Research Fellows are typically upper-year students, and Moore, from Portland, Oregon, said she was excited to complete a project in her sophomore year. “This has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done so far in college. I was glad to take advantage of something like this that’s available at Trinity.”

Jacqueline Wostbrock ’16 and M. Kelly (IDP)

Two other students worked closely with Trinity’s Individualized Degree Program (IDP) on their project, “The Road Less Travelled: Non-traditional Students at Trinity College.” Jacqueline Wostbrock ’16 and M. Kelly (IDP) examined the process of attracting students over the age of 23 to consider the IDP program, from which 800 adult students have graduated since 1973. Wostbrock and Kelly, who received guidance from Carol Clark, associate professor of economics, and Diane Zannoni, director of the IDP program and G. Fox and Company Professor of Economics, interviewed 13 IDP students randomly selected from those admitted the past five years. Their survey findings will help to tweak IDP Program recruitment and retention efforts.

Elaina Rollins ’16, working with faculty sponsor Jack Dougherty, associate professor of educational studies, sought to talk with teachers in Hartford about how they interpret and carry out the Common Core State Standards. An educational studies major, Rollins partnered with Hartford Public Schools, and completed ten interviews with elementary school teachers. She concluded through her research that “while teachers embrace the pedagogical messages of the Common Core, these educators also actively revise and refine their teaching methods in order to use the standards as a tool for teaching important life skills.”

Emy Farrow-German ’16 and Kaitlyn Sprague ’16 partnered with the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association (AHNA) on their project, “Preparing to Create a Neighborhood Multicultural Center.” Working with faculty sponsor Rasha Ahmed, associate professor of economics, Farrow-German and Sprague researched community and cultural centers around the country and developed recommendations to support AHNA’s goal to strengthen communication and interaction among the many culturally distinct groups in the Asylum Hill neighborhood. According to Farrow-German, one of the best parts of the project was “getting to know the city of Hartford and residents’ struggles and accomplishments.”

During the fall semester, the Fellows participated in the Community Learning Research Colloquium to develop and share their work with other students and faculty participants. CL Research Fellows Coordinator David Reuman, associate professor of psychology, said that one of the challenges is the communication and collaboration students have with partners in the community who are not necessarily from the same academic field. “They are not experimenting in a lab, where you have a lot of control,” said Reuman. “The program is transformative because students realize they can do something that makes a difference in the community.”

Other CL Research Fellows who are conducting year-long research projects will present their work in April at a Community Partners Appreciation Event.

 Written by Kathy Andrews
Photos by John Atashian. View more photos from the CL Research Fellows December 15 Capstone Event.