Trinity College President Discusses Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Innovation Destination Hartford

Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity College President and Professor of Neuroscience, to learn about the many ways the college supports and encourages entrepreneurship and innovative activity at the school and throughout Connecticut.

INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: What types of entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives are happening at Trinity?

JOANNE BERGER-SWEENEY: We are in the midst of implementing our bicentennial strategic plan, Summit, and for us, much of what we’re doing at this moment is entrepreneurial and innovative, in the broadest sense of the terms.

As Trinity is a liberal arts college located in a city and with an accredited engineering program, entrepreneurship and innovation are part of our DNA. The success of our alumni certainly attests to this.

As one recent example, we’ve partnered with Capital Community College to open the Liberal Arts Action Lab at 10 Constitution Plaza. This is an innovative program that matches real-world community challenges with interdisciplinary teams of students and faculty to offer concrete solutions.

As we design our new space in One Constitution Plaza, we’re looking forward to the possibilities that will open for even greater promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship, including strengthening our graduate-level offerings…


“The Right to Have Rights” and the Plight of the Stateless

The New Yorker

…Sixty-nine years ago, Hannah Arendt wrote a phrase that has gradually become one of her most quoted and often interpreted: “the right to have rights.” The phrase summed up her skepticism about the concept of human rights—those rights that, in theory, belong to every person by virtue of existence. … The Arendt phrase, used first in a 1949 article and again in the 1951 book “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” has been the subject of a series of interpretations in the last few years. Most recently, Verso has published an elegant little book of essays by four academics who endeavored not only to unpack the phrase but also to find interpretations that can inform and inspire resistance to the current worldwide assault on human rights. The book is called “The Right to Have Rights.” … Each author in “The Right to Have Rights” focussed on one word in the famous phrase. Lida Maxwell, who teaches in the politics department at Trinity College, writes about the verb “to have,” which she suggests can be interpreted not as a verb of possession but “in the way we might ‘have’ a meeting, or a dinner party, or a conference, or a convention. Here, ‘to have’ rights means to participate in staging, creating, and sustaining (through protest, legislation, collective action, or institution building) a common political world where the ability to legitimately claim and demand rights becomes a possibility for everyone.” The January, 2017, airport protests against Trump’s first attempt to ban entry to the United States from predominantly Muslim countries, Maxwell writes, can be read as just such a project of creating “a world where everyone can legitimately make rights claims.” This is probably the most hopeful moment in the slim volume…


Trump’s faith-based initiative removes a barrier to proselytizing, and some Jews are worried

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Flanked by clergy — including a priest, an imam and an Orthodox rabbi — President Donald Trump revived the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, a system that since its 2001 launch has delivered humanitarian assistance to Americans through religious organizations.

“Americans of faith have built the hospitals that care for our sick, the homes that tend to our elderly, and the charities that house the orphaned, and they minister — and they really do, they minister to the poor, and so beautifully and with such love,” Trump said in remarks Thursday in the Rose Garden.

Buried in legal speak in the executive order, however, was a clause that left liberal-leaning Jewish groups aghast: Trump removed a section that required religious groups using government money to refer applicants to appropriate alternatives if the applicant did not want a dose of salvation with their relief.

Marc Stern, the counsel for the American Jewish Committee, said the now moot requirement protected the starving man from having to listen to a sermon before entering a soup kitchen for a meal. … In a Religion News Service column, Mark Silk, who heads the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Connecticut, said, “Where Obama ensured religious freedom, Trump creates religious establishments.”…


Ocean Zone Discovered In Bermuda Is Home To 100 New Marine Species

International Business Times

In a groundbreaking find, scientists have discovered a completely new ocean zone off the coast in Bermuda, a region that nobody knew existed and is home to several new species of marine life.

Dubbed as Rariphotic Zone or the rare light zone, the region was discovered under the Nekton Mission I, a deep-sea survey to investigate the state of ocean around Bermuda, Sargasso Sea, and the Northwest Atlantic. A team, led by researchers from the Oxford University, dived underwater using submersibles and remotely operated vehicles.

They found the zone, few miles away from the coast, extended somewhere between 226 to 984 feet and is hosting more than 100 distinct marine species. It is the fourth zone to have distinct biological species within 3,000 meters of depth after Altiphotic, Mesophotic, and Bathyal Zone.

This included a bunch of very small animals like tanaids, gnathiid isopods, leptostracans, pink and yellow fish, green moray eels, yellow hermit crabs as well as twisted black wire coral measuring up to two meters high, sea urchins, sea fans, and dozens of new algae species.

“We believe we have discovered dozens of new species of algae including the deepest ever record to have had its DNA sequenced. Many are recognized for demonstrating a new bio-geographical link between Bermuda and the Indo-Pacific,” professor Craig Schneider, Trinity College, Connecticut, one of the participating scientists, said in a statement…


Hartford Data Lab Looks For Links Between Health And Housing

Hartford Courant

A months-old research lab in downtown Hartford hopes to learn whether it can make the city healthier by improving the quality of housing.

The project is led by the Connecticut Data Collective, a nonprofit organization that helps community groups, local governments, organizations and nonprofits better understand and use their own data and public information. The collective is relocating this summer from its Rocky Hill office to a shared space with its partner, Liberal Arts Action Lab at Trinity College.

Working out of the lab at 10 Constitution Plaza, a team of collective staff and Trinity interns will dig through data to measure the relationship between housing issues, such as eviction, foreclosures, blight and unsafe conditions, and residents’ health, including the rate of chronic illnesses and preventative measures like having health insurance and visiting the doctor.

It’s one of the latest grants supporting work at the Liberal Arts Action Lab, which Trinity opened with Capital Community College in January. The $148,000 award announced Tuesday builds on two projects Trinity and Capital students worked on this past semester, one dealing with evictions and one that involved mapping blight, homes and infrastructure in the North Hartford Promise Zone, which encompasses the Clay Arsenal, Northeast and Upper Albany neighborhoods.

Now, the two partners are taking a broader look at how housing conditions may cause health problems citywide, says Megan Brown, director of the Liberal Arts Action Lab. “This grant allows us to zoom out and look at those broader connections,” Brown said. “These kind of questions have been interesting for a while and there’s a lot of room to explore them.”…


What Higher Ed Can Learn from Design Thinking

The Chronicle of Higher Education

To the Editor:

Design thinking may be a boondoggle, fad, or frenzy, as Lee Vinsel forcefully asserts (“Design Thinking Is a Boondoggle,” May 21st), but are we so sure it has no value for higher education? In its most simplistic, formulaic version, it’s true that it can smack of self-help, just as it can overlook the importance of context, culture, and complexity.

But even if design thinking can be problematic, applying its insights and methodology to address pressing challenges — from higher education to the future of work — doesn’t have to be a losing proposition.

Equipping people, including students, with the creative confidence to tackle complex problems isn’t just a millennial preference. Too often in the academy we allow critical voices to impede change and a spirit of creativity. We need to empower more people to be critically creative.

Dismissing design thinking’s empathy for “students as customers” may also be morally satisfying, but empathy has always been integral to a humanistic education. Especially in a polarized world, empathizing with those with whom we disagree is a democratic imperative.

Vinsel is correct that design thinking isn’t the latest disruptive alternative in higher education, yet his polemical tone shuts down a more nuanced analysis. Design thinking challenges us to rethink some what we do (or don’t do enough of) — how we teach and practice creative thinking, empathy for all, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Sonia Cardenas

Dean of Academic Affairs and Strategic Initiatives

Professor of Political Science

Trinity College


Changing Higher Ed to Maintain Hope of Social Mobility – By Angel B. Perez


Higher education in America matters. For decades, it has served as the path toward success and upward social mobility for millions. The Higher Education Act of 1965 delivered the message that all in the United States who aspire to go to college should have the opportunity to do so. If we are to succeed as a nation, we must keep this vision alive.

While the higher education sector is currently challenged, it remains the greatest hope for ensuring that Americans compete in a rapidly evolving global workforce. A recent study from New America reminds us that higher education still offers families the best route toward upward mobility. However, access to college remains the greatest barrier to moving more Americans into the middle class and beyond.

Creating greater access for all who aspire to attend college will be done by engaging many sectors and tackling issues through a multi-pronged approach. This is our work in the Higher Education Committee of 50, or “Forward50,” a group of 50 higher education leaders charged with identifying challenges and presenting solutions to institutions, policy organizations, and Congress. The committee will make several recommendations to remove barriers for students and will tackle various issues that create barriers to success…