Trinity students in the Community Learning Research Fellows program partner with local organizations each year to participate in hands-on, community-centric research work that goes beyond the classroom. Director of Community Learning Erica Crowley said, “The fellows apply their research skills to real-world issues that the Hartford community partners are working on. This program is for students with previous academic or co-curricular community engagement experience. It helps them build strong, collaborative relationships with community partners and their faculty advisors, strengthen their research skills, and develop a publicly viewable web page.
Research fellows work independently or in groups on semester- or year-long partnerships. Community partners include the past non-profits, government agencies, educational institutions, and neighborhood advocacy groups. This semester, the fellows are working with the Hartford Land Bank, the CT Women’s Education & Legal Advocacy Fund (CWEALF), the CT Office of Early Childhood, the Full Citizens Coalition, and the Hartford and West Hartford Public Libraries. The students all attend a seminar every Friday where they learn the methods of learning and the basics of conducting research. During the week, they do their own research in conjunction with their community partners and faculty advisors.
Fellows Jane Dunbar ’23, an urban studies and public policy and law double major, and Sulemaan Khalid ’23, an urban studies major and history minor, and their faculty advisor, Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Studies Laura Delgado, partnered with Hartford Land Bank, a non-profit that stewards the rehabilitation of vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent, or distressed properties in the city. The students worked with Arunan Arulampalam, CEO of The Hartford Land Bank, to get the data about residential properties in Hartford: how many properties they own, where they live, and the number of housing code complaints they receive. Dunbar said, “There is a problem in urban areas across the country where out-of-state landlords are hands-off and active in making sure their properties are safe and up-to-date. Hartford Land Bank monitor Hartford properties. ”
Khalid added, “We’ve been focusing on residential properties and whether or not their landlords are in-state or out-of-state, and then the number of housing contract violations received.”
Delgado said, “The work has been applied to students in a real-world issue, while also learning about and contributing to the impressive ongoing work of community-based organizations in Hartford.”
Jack A. Dougherty, Professor of Educational Studies, Who teaches the research fellows seminar this semester, said, “I’m thrilled that Sulemaan and Jane agreed to partner with the Hartford Land Bank. Together, they’re digging into the city’s Hartford public data to better understand who owns apartment buildings in Hartford, and the relationship between out-of-state landlords and housing code complaints. ”
All of the information about landlords and property exists in an open database online, so that the colleagues created tables can manipulate the data in Excel. They were simultaneously doing their own research on landlords in Hartford with data from the Secretary of State and city officials. Based on previous data and the colleagues’ own data, they are able to provide the Hartford Land Bank with accurate numbers and information about landlords in Hartford. Arulampalam said, “Hartford has the lowest homeownership rate in the state of Connecticut, and this data will be elucidated to the extent that it is available to neighborhood residents who own properties that are driven by outside investors. Eventually, other research done on the building by Trinity, it will also show how the ownership of properties matches those of the housing code violations. ”
Regarding Dunbar and Khalid’s research, Crowley added, “For some projects, such as Jane and Sulemaan’s, the research is not only valuable to the partner, but also to other community organizations and Trinity student-focused organizations. topic — in this case, housing. ”
After conducting this research, Dunbar has developed an interest in pursuing a career revolving around an urban area. She said, “This has been a really meaningful experience, especially with working in manipulating data in Excel, and making a connection with a community partner in Hartford.”
Khalid did not expect to come to the study of Trinity, and appreciates the meaningful, hands-on experiences he has had in the city. He said, “These courses do a really good job with you focusing on your environment, and making sure you understand exactly where you are.”
To learn more about Community Learning Opportunities at Trinity, click here.