“Gaining a Deeper Understanding of the City We Live In”: Henry Chavez ’18 on Learning and Researching in Hartford

Henry Chavez ’18 presents at the Nov. 2017 Hartford Consortium for Higher Education conference, “Hartford as a College Town.” 

Henry Chavez does work to bring people together. Whether it’s through his internship (and future job) at Facebook, his courses in Urban Studies and Political Science, or his project as a Community Learning Research Fellow examining a current movement to make Hartford more of a “College City,” he explores connections among people and with the places where they live.

Headshot of Henry Chavez '18, a Community Learning Research Fellow
Henry Chavez ’18

Henry began this work as a first-year student in the Cities program, where he learned to “critically consider Hartford as a global city.” He explains, “The concept of studying the area where we’re living and participating in daily activities was never a thing to me. In typical classes, we usually study things and topics that are a bit distant and more theoretical and abstract and in other parts of the world. So it was interesting to me to study the place we’re surrounded by every day.”  

This interest has led to his current project in the Community Learning Research Fellows program, a partnership with the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education (HCHE) to examine the goals and concerns of its eleven member institutions, an important step in HCHE’s plan to move Hartford forward as a college city. Henry interviewed key leaders at each institution, often the President, to ascertain their understanding of their relationship with HCHE as well as their goals for collaborative work with other colleges and universities in the city. After transcribing these interviews and coding his data, he has been presenting his findings across multiple venues, both on- and off-campus, while writing up his final report for HCHE.  

Because of his work on the topic, HCHE invited Henry to present at their one-day conference, “A Convening: Hartford as a College Town,” which brought together city leaders from across education, political, and business sectors. According to Henry, “The conference gave us a broad picture of people’s goals for making Hartford a college city, but it also surfaced some missing puzzle pieces.” The conference brought together different city constituents–from transportation organizations to museums and youth leadership programs to libraries. Across these populations, Henry felt “it was good to present to the consortia that there are a lot of factors at the table that need to be addressed, not just one or two things that will suddenly transform Hartford into a college town.”

Henry found the Research Fellows program to be instrumental in his pursuit of this work. The structure of the program helped in navigating the difficulties of managing the reserach process–“in terms of the logistics, the timing, where should we be at, what are the next steps.” Additionally, he explains that Research fellows fosters “a deeper understanding of the city we live in” while helping students gain “both soft and hard skills: everything from how to communicate with a community partner to the hard skills of what do you do once you get data. How do you interpret data? How do you make sense of it? How do you collect it? How do you go on to present it?” He believes these skills are “vital” to all students as they prepare to move from Trinity into other educational or professional contexts.  

When thinking back on his four years at Trinity, Henry expresses the importance of his Community Learning experiences: “Community Learning really made me feel like a part of the community, actually. It gave me the opportunity to learn about the everyday challenges residents of the city of Hartford face, that sometimes, as students at Trinity, we can sort of miss out on because we are on the campus for a majority of the time. So I think it really gave me an understanding that it isn’t that Hartford is in Trinity necessarily, but that Trinity is in Hartford. Putting that into perspective gave me a much more holistic understanding of why it’s important to have civic participation, and that was something that I may have missed out on if I didn’t get the chance to participate in Community Learning.”

Henry Chavez ‘18 is an Urban Studies/Political Science double major from Boston, MA. He was an Account Manager intern at Facebook the Summer of 2017 in Austin, Texas and will begin working as a Partner Manager for the company full time in Summer 2018 in Chicago, IL. At Trinity, he has been involved as a computer literacy instructor at Trinfo.Cafe, a student chair of the Honor Council, a Student Admissions Associate in the Office of Admissions, the co-founder and president of Latino America Unida, Lambda Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Inc. and a member of First-Generation Student Advisory Board.

For more information on Community Learning Research Fellows, you can attend the Research Fellows Poster Presentation on Mon., Dec. 11 from 5:30-6:30 pm in Hallden Hall. Or you can visit our website here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Megan Hartline, Associate Director of Community Learning, by phone (860-297-2583) or email.  

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