Laura Minor joined the CHER team as Interim Director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab at the beginning of August. Dr. Minor most recently served as assistant director of undergraduate advisement and coordinator of the Community and Civic Engagement minor at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). She holds a Ph.D. from Clemson and conducts research on how community engagement programs shape student outcomes. Learn more about Dr. Minor and her new role below.
What is your current position at Trinity and what are you most looking forward to in this role?
My current position is Interim Director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab, which is located in downtown Hartford at 10 Constitution Plaza. I direct the administrative aspects of the program, as well as teach some of the project courses. There is so much to look forward to in this position, it’s hard to choose! First, I’m looking forward to learning from my new colleagues. Abby Fisher Williamson, the Director of CHER (under which the Action Lab is housed), has a wealth of experience in research and community engagement, and I know I will become a better researcher and educator under her leadership. The same goes for my CHER colleagues, and the Action Lab’s post-doc fellow, Ozlem Atalay – I look forward to working with and learning from all of these incredible people. I also am excited to learn about Hartford and do what I can to maintain and build upon the relationships Trinity has with its community organizations and surrounding neighborhoods, as well as with Capital Community College. Lastly, I’m really looking forward to working with students at Trinity and Capital, and seeing their skills and passions for community engagement grow through their involvement in the Action Lab. I also look forward to sampling the restaurant scene in Hartford!
What past connection do you have with Trinity?
The only connection I previously had was admiration from afar. Since I have been involved in community engagement at the state colleges, I went to a Campus Compact conference several years ago, and heard the original Action Lab Director, Megan Brown, speak about the program. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of that model of engagement, and by Trinity’s demonstrated commitment to truly partnering with the Hartford community. In the world of community engaged scholarship, this program is truly the gold standard, and I had been “fangirl-ing” it long before I came on board.
What has your educational and professional journey looked like up to this point?
I like to stress to my students that education and career development is a lifelong journey, and I use my own life as an example. My undergraduate degree was in Elementary Education, but I never taught – I went straight on to my Master of Education in Educational Psychology (School Counseling). While settling into being married and having kids, I was a guidance counselor in New Haven for seven years, then made the transition to advising and administration at the higher education level. Once I became an academic advisor at Central Connecticut State University, I began teaching in and directing their fledgling academic minor in Community and Civic Engagement, and fell in love with teaching at the college level, and with engaging students on that dynamic topic. The minor grew from 2 students to 40 by the time I left, which was so gratifying. I worked on my PhD in International Family and Community Studies while also working full-time at CCSU, and finally completed it in 2019.
What made you want to take this role?
As you can see from my journey, when this opportunity came up, I was so excited to make the transition to working in my area of passion full-time; and yet, the role still makes use of the administrative skills I have learned over the years. The transition to being full-time faculty, I hope, will finally give me the time to pursue my own research in outcomes of community and civic engagement programs that was put on hold by COVID and working full-time. Also, like I mentioned, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this incredible program and to learn from people I respect in my field.
What are your favorite books or podcasts?
My interests are all over the map on these, so it’s hard to pick favorites! Two books I just finished were Happy Go Lucky by humorist David Sedaris, and on the other end of the spectrum, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by journalist Anand Giridharadas. I’ll also read anything by Ann Patchett or Margaret Atwood, and have recently been enjoying the fiction and poetry of Ocean Vuong.
As far as podcasts, my “far and away” favorite, for obvious reasons, is one that my daughter produces about ADHD. It’s called “The ADHD Manual”, and as a clinical therapist and person with ADHD, she does an incredible job describing neurodivergence in a way that has really helped me understand both her and a lot of my students. Don’t judge me, but I also love true crime and listen to two hilarious women every week on “My Favorite Murder”, and keep up with the news with “Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me” on NPR.
What is your favorite place in the world?
I do think my favorite place to be is at my home in New Hartford, where we live on a lake and enjoy kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding, and lattes on the dock on lazy weekend mornings. However, last year I visited Denmark, and fell in love with the beauty of the place, and the culture – which is very intentional about community-building in its rural and urban spaces.