Trinity students in the Community Learning Research Fellows program partner with local organizations each year to participate in hands-on, community-focused research that goes beyond the classroom. Director of Community Learning, Erica Crowley, said, “Fellows apply their research skills to real-world issues being worked on by community partners in Hartford. This program is intended for students who already have academic or extracurricular experience in community involvement. This allows them to build strong collaborative relationships with community partners and their academic advisors, strengthen their research skills, and develop a publicly accessible web page to share their work with their partner and more widely.
Research fellows work independently or in groups on semester-long or year-long partnerships. In the past, community partners have included nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, and neighborhood advocacy groups. This semester, Fellows are working with Hartford Land Bank, CT Women’s Education & Legal Advocacy Fund (CWEALF), CT Office of Early Childhood, Full Citizens Coalition, and Hartford and West Hartford Public Libraries. The students all attend a seminar every Friday where they learn research methods and the basics of conducting research. During the week, they do their own research in collaboration with their community partners and the educational advisers.
Fellows Jane Dunbar ’23, double major in urban studies and public policy and law, and Sulemaan Khalid ’23, major in urban studies and minor in history, and their academic advisor, postdoctoral fellow in urban studies Laura Delgado, have partnered this semester at Hartford Land Bank, a non-profit organization that manages the rehabilitation of vacant, derelict, tax-delinquent, or distressed properties in the city. The students worked with Arunan Arulampalam, CEO of Hartford Land Bank, to obtain data on residential properties in Hartford: specifically, who owns them, how many properties they own, where they live and the number of complaints relating to the housing code that they have received. Dunbar said, “There’s a problem in urban areas across the country where out-of-state landlords are indifferent and not making sure their properties are safe and up-to-date, so the research we’re doing helps. the Hartford Land Bank oversees Hartford properties.
Khalid added, “We focused on residential properties and whether their owners were in-state or out-of-state, and then the number of housing trespass complaints received.”
Delgado said, “The work allows students to apply what they have studied in the classroom to a real-world problem, while learning from and contributing to the impressive ongoing work of community organizations in Hartford.”
Jack A. Dougherty Professor of Educational Studies, who is teaching the Research Fellow Seminar this semester, said, “I am delighted that Sulemaan and Jane have agreed to partner with Hartford Land Bank. Together, they dig into the City of Hartford’s public data to better understand who owns apartment buildings in Hartford and the relationship between out-of-state landlords and housing code complaints.
All owner and property information exists in an open online database, so fellows created tables to manipulate the data in Excel. They were simultaneously doing their own research on Hartford landlords with data from the Secretary of State and city officials. Based on previous data and the fellows’ own data, they are able to provide the Hartford Land Bank with accurate numbers and information on landlords in Hartford. Arulampalam said, “Hartford has the lowest homeownership rate in the state of Connecticut, and these data will help elucidate the extent to which neighborhood residents’ inability to own their homes is driven by properties acquired by outside investors. Finally, building on other research done by Trinity, it will also show how ownership of properties correlates with housing code violations on those properties.
Regarding Dunbar and Khalid’s research, Crowley added: “For some projects, such as those of Jane and Sulemaan, the research is valuable not only to the partner the fellows are working with, but also to other organizations. communities and Trinity student researchers who focus on the same topic. topic – in this case, housing.
After conducting this research, Dunbar developed an interest in pursuing a career focused on politics, particularly housing policy in an urban area. She said, “It’s been a really meaningful experience, especially working with data manipulation in Excel and connecting with a community partner in Hartford.”
Khalid did not expect to pursue this program of study when coming to Trinity and appreciates the practical and meaningful experiences he has had in the city. He said: “These classes do a really good job of centering you in your surroundings and really making you understand exactly where you are.”
To learn more about community learning opportunities at Trinity, click here.