WHILE NATIONAL CONVERSATIONS ABOUND ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION'S NEED
TO RETURN TO ITS CIVIC MISSION, TRINITY COLLEGE IS LEADING THE WAY BY
EXAMPLE. IN AN UNPRECEDENTED EFFORT TO REVITALIZE ITS SURROUNDING COMMUNITY,
TRINITY COLLEGE HAS SHOWN THAT A SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE CAN PIONEER
EFFORTS FOR URBAN RENEWAL. EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT, TRINITY HAS SET ABOUT
TRANSFORMING ITSELF AS IT SEEKS TO REBUILD ITS SURROUNDING COMMUNITY.
ACKNOWLEDGING ITS LIBERAL ARTS FOUNDATION, STEEPED IN TRADITION, TRINITY
HAS SOUGHT TO REVITALIZE ITS EDUCATION WITH AN AWARENESS OF 21ST CENTURY
CONCERNS. BY CREATING AN "EXTENDED COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS" THAT
REFLECTS NEW LEARNING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE COLLEGE AND THE CITY, TRINITY
BELIEVES THAT THE COLLEGE HAS REACHED NEW HEIGHTS.
in the heart of Hartford, Trinity has been a part of the Hartford
community since its inception in 1823. Over the last forty years,
the college has watched its surrounding neighborhood fall into significant
decline. In 1996, Trinity College announced a comprehensive $175-million
neighborhood revitalization initiative for the community surrounding
its campus. The College joined forces with education and health organizations,
the public and private sector, local, state and federal government
agencies and a number of community and neighborhood organizations
who were equally committed to rebuilding a safe, viable, strong neighborhood.
Together, the partners rebuilt an entire 15-block area and built The
Learning Corridor, the central focus of the revitalization initiative.
Faculty operate from the belief that a liberal education is
enhanced by connecting classroom learning to actual, related
Trinity College and its partners in the Southside Institutions Neighborhood
Alliance (SINA)--Hartford Hospital, the Institute of Living, Connecticut
Children's Medical Center, and Connecticut Public Television and Radio
designed the Learning Corridor to be a part of "housing rehabilitation,
neighborhood retail businesses, streetscape improvements, job training,
recreation, and family services". These establishments and programs
will extend out of the educational center to create a united, reinvigorated
Completed in 2000, The Learning Corridor is its own campus adjacent to
Trinity College. The campus houses a Montessori Magnet Elementary School,
Hartford Magnet Middle School, and two regional high school programs--the
Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and the Greater Hartford Academy
of Math and Science.
In addition to believing that Trinity could transform its surrounding
area physically, Trinity believed that the College also needed an educational
transformation. Focused largely on the goal of maintaining the strength
and responsiveness of a liberal arts education in a diverse, complex world,
Trinity began a strategic planning effort in 1996 that represented a vision
of Trinity's "liberal arts with a difference". The strategic
plan emphasized the importance of global education, urban studies, cooperative
learning, and the creative, informed use of technology. In 1998, the Kellogg
Foundation supported Trinity's campus-community efforts with a $5.1 million
gift to recast Trinity's approach to liberal education, help the surrounding
troubled neighborhood, and integrate the former two projects into one
seamless whole. Trinity has sponsored four major projects to build connections
and blur the lines between community and campus.
One major outcome of the Kellogg grant initiative has been the creation
of a "Smart Neighborhood". The "Smart Neighborhood"
project bridges the digital divide between Trinity, who is technologically
sophisticated, and its neighbors, who have little access to new technology.
The initiative brings information technology and technical support together
to make "technology part of the way the neighborhood views itself."
As part of the Smart Neighborhood, Trinity created a neighborhood technology
center. The center, Trinfo.café, offers a range of appropriate
technology, training classes, and technical support for local residents,
small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations in the area.
A second component of the "extended community of learners" actively
involves students and faculty. Faculty have taken the lead in building
the Community Learning Initiative. Faculty operate from the belief that
a liberal education is enhanced by connecting classroom learning to actual,
related experiences. This initiative is a classroom-based project that
combines traditional coursework with service learning and "real world"
application. Students serve the community through course-based collaborations
with community partners. Begun as a pilot project, the community learning
initiative is now a rich component of a Trinity education. The initiative
maintains a full-time coordinator to facilitate the program.
The college also seeks widespread participation in a third initiative,
the College-Community Innovation Fund. The Fund supports faculty, students,
and local residents to collaborate together to devise innovative projects
and/or courses that can be incorporated into the curriculum or the co-curriculum.
Multi-disciplinary projects are strongly encouraged with special attention
given to community arts, urban education, and city-related science matters.
The fourth initiative is the Trinity Center for Neighborhoods, which conducts
research on questions posed by the community's neighborhood organizations.
Research questions are developed to assist with community problem-solving
and strategic planning. Faculty and students work with community partners
to complete research projects that are responsive to neighborhood needs.
Although proud of its role in rebuilding the surrounding neighborhood,
Trinity is most proud of its role as a contributor and a major stakeholder
in the community. The leadership it has assumed in turning the community
around is simply a part of the college's mission and responsibility. Former
President of Trinity College, Evan Dobelle has said, "Trinity has
assumed leadership of this effort because we have a profound sense of
obligation to Hartford and we intend to honor it. And this obligation
is not at odds with our fundamental educational mission. In fact, the
two are closely aligned and complementary. It is vital to the College's
future that our neighborhood turn itself around. We have led in this initiative
because it is the right thing to do."
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