Trinity’s relationship with Hartford and its residents has always been strained. Looking out from Trinity on the surrounding area, it is no wonder why. But one of the greatest regrets Trinity students have upon graduating is that they did not spend enough time in Hartford.
When prospective students first come to the school, they drive onto Broad Street with its smashed windows, permanently closed markets, and double-parked cars. No matter what the reason for this is, and whether or not we can do more to fix it, does not matter here. All students and prospective students see is its appearance, which isn’t attractive. With this as their first impression, who would dare venture outside campus? Come December, 2017, hopefully many.
For the first time since 1872, when the college moved from where the capitol is today to its present location, Trinity is making efforts to establish its downtown presence. Specifically, the College will inhabit a space at 10 Constitution Plaza, smack dab in the center of Hartford. A number of programs will be available with the purpose of integrating Trinity into the city of Hartford. These include the “Liberal Arts Action Lab”, a “makerspace”, more collaborative workspace, and a greater basis for downtown internships. For the most part, the physical space will basically be a Vernon Social for downtown Hartford.
The greatest benefit of this project seems to be the Liberal Arts Action Lab (LAAL). According to the Trinity website, the LAAL will “bring together faculty and students from Trinity College and Capital Community College to collaborate in researching and addressing local challenges using a liberal arts lens to solve real-world problems.”
The team will have the goal of actively finding solutions to actual, tangible, problems in Hartford. Hartford organizations, professors, and students will all have an equally important part to play in this venture. Specifically, about 20 students per semester will be able to obtain academic credit for participating in a team project and completing the Action Lab course. Finally, Trinity will be physically and intellectually placed in the Hartford community, playing their part to make our city better.
Critical to this venture is that projects will not be proposed by Trinity internals (students, professors, administrators), but by “Hartford community partners” from the Hartford Consortium. It is important to receive proposals from Hartford-based organizations because they have the best idea of what to improve in Hartford. As we have seen above, the stereotypes (true or not) that Trinity students and personnel have of Hartford causes them to be closed-minded, precluding them from knowing what to fix in the community and how to go about it. But by integrating Trinity students into these projects, they will learn from actual experience as opposed to relying on stereotypes.
Trinity at Constitutional Plaza is a step forward for the College. There is no doubt that we are late in improving relationships with Hartford. But we can appreciate the recent effort to take initiative. Trinity students should take the opportunity to actively improve the community they so often critique. And now there is no excuse, for there is an incentive.