Gillian Reinhard ’20
Trinity’s downtown Hartford campus at 10 Constitution Plaza first opened in December of 2017. The Liberal Arts Action Lab, which sponsors a two-credit program available to Trinity students throughout the school year, is headquartered downtown and is accepting applications for the Fall 2019 semester. The Tripod spoke with Garret Forst ’19, a student who participated in the program, to learn more about his experience.
As explained by Forst, the purpose of the Liberal Arts Action Lab is to lead “action research” in Hartford over the course of a semester. All students take the class “Action Research Methods in Hartford,” which covers the basics of social science research skills. Then, students apply what they have learned to work on a research project with a Hartford community partner. These projects are accomplished by teams consisting of Trinity students, Capital Community College students, a faculty fellow, and the community partner organization. Each project is aimed towards improving life in Hartford, such as improving the city’s housing, its environment, or access to the arts.
Each semester, students have choices for which community partnerships they would like to work with. Forst explained that he worked on the Mapping Northeast Hartford project team. “The central issue of our team was studying the relationship between housing conditions and health disparities in the North Hartford Promise Zone,” Forst said. In partnership with Action Lab director Megan Brown, a faculty fellow, two Capital Community College students, and Community Solutions, Inc., a national community development organization, Forst conducted a “comprehensive analysis of property conditions as well as an analysis of other issues relevant to stable housing like affordability.” At the end of the semester, the findings were presented at a poster fair hosted by the Action Lab.
“I see it as a capstone to what I learned as an Urban Studies major,” said Forst, “given that it allowed me the chance to apply what I learned in courses pertaining to Hartford, housing and environmental justice, and the community development sector.” Forst cited his experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map data as “invaluable as I pursue a career in community development and urban planning.”
“Those with an interest in community issues and those who have a background in social sciences and the humanities might find (the Action Lab program) as a particularly good fit…most importantly though, the student who will enjoy this program the most is one who wants to learn more about Hartford and gain some experience working in the Hartford community on important community issues,” said Forst.
The deadline for students to apply to the Liberal Arts Action Lab for the upcoming fall semester is March 31 and more information can be found at https://action-lab.org/.