The long-standing relationship between Trinity College and The University of the West Indies, located more than 2,200 miles from Hartford, continues to grow.

This past February, the two institutions co-hosted a scholarly conference, “Turning Tides: Caribbean Intersections in the Americas and Beyond,” at the UWI campus in St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago. The gathering, which I attended along with a cross-section of Trinity faculty, offered wide-ranging and transdisciplinary conversations on the changes, instabilities, perspectives, developments, and emerging trends affecting Caribbean cultures and societies.

During the conference, in a show of enduring commitment to our partnership, the university celebrated the official opening of the UWI-Trinity House, built specifically by UWI to support Trinity’s successful study-away program in Trinidad and to foster further collaborations between the two institutions. Now Trinity study-away faculty and staff have a presence right in the heart of the campus, near where our visiting students reside, rather than in an off-site facility, as was the case in the past.

At the “sod turning ceremony,” or groundbreaking, of the new building back in April 2015, UWI Campus Principal Clement Sankat asked, “How many other universities around the world have developed a partnership that allows another university a firm, physical presence on its landscape?”

Through his rhetorical question, Sankat’s message was clear. Our relationship is valued thanks to the significant work and research of Trinity professors, many of whom are considered experts on Caribbean cultures and societies. The UWI-Trinity House stands tall as a symbol of the interaction between our small liberal arts college in New England and UWI, a large, full-service Caribbean university.

At Trinity, we recognize that the Caribbean region is home to some of the world’s most unique and diverse societies, with roots in Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as in indigenous societies, and that the Caribbean civilization has influenced contemporary global culture in extraordinary ways. We also know that, thanks to a large Caribbean population, our home city of Hartford has very strong connections to the region.

With all of this in mind, the College is pleased to announce the creation of a new Center for Caribbean Studies, with a proposed launch in the fall of 2016.

This interdisciplinary center will boast numerous faculty members from many departments playing important roles. Our location in Hartford makes us uniquely suited to create a center that will embrace the Caribbean as an area for academic inquiry; emphasize undergraduate research and student-faculty collaborative work within Trinity’s liberal arts environment; promote new course development on the Caribbean in all academic divisions; foster the study of Caribbean life and culture in the diaspora; and emphasize new curricular connections and collaborations with the Caribbean communities of Greater Hartford.

The center also will contribute to the fulfillment of one of the College’s working goals that we created shortly after my arrival at Trinity nearly two years ago, to ensure academic excellence. The resulting dynamic of intercultural interchange that the new Center for Caribbean Studies will produce will foster closer community-to-College ties and set up a synergy that will bring Trinity international recognition and that will appeal to academically committed undergraduates who might otherwise not have considered attending a liberal arts college.

Trinity’s new Center for Caribbean Studies will prepare all of our students to operate in the multicultural, multinational world of the 21st century. It will be an example of the liberal arts at its best.