Dear Editorial Board:
As Director of UConn Hartford, I was pleased to see an editorial written by the Editorial Board in The Daily Campus highlighting the Urban Semester: an immersion opportunity available to UConn students to live and learn in Hartford and closely connect to city life for a full semester. I appreciate how the authors applauded the program and the Hartford campus as representative of UConn’s efforts to partner with the state of Connecticut and its capital city.
However, I feel compelled to also share my disappointment at the negative and monolithic characterization of Hartford in one particularly offensive statement: “Hartford is the natural choice for the state university, but its [sic] such a drab, impoverished city. In a way, though, this is to the benefit of the program. The Urban Semester does not shy away from the fact that Hartford is in dire straits.” To counter this mistaken representation of Hartford, I welcome the authors to avoid negative stereotyping and habitual fallback representations with deficit depictions of doom, gloom, and hopelessness. Instead, I invite them to appreciate our state capital as a historical and global city rich in wide ranging human stories and economic and cultural resources. UConn Hartford and the Urban Semester emerge from and are part of these assets and our students greatly benefit from them.
Hartford’s many nonprofits, businesses, and governmental agencies enrich our student and faculty learning through the service opportunities, internship experiences, and career options available all around us. Lively neighborhoods throughout the city bring a diverse world to the center of our state. Just recently, as an example of many similar accolades, a nationwide healthcare blog post lauded Hartford as among the “Best Cities in the Northeast for a Career in Healthcare.”
Furthermore, despite your assertion to the contrary, the University of Connecticut is an urban school: we have thousands of graduate and undergraduate students attending vibrant downtown campuses in Stamford, Waterbury, and Hartford. These locations along with UConn Avery Point deepen and broaden the university’s academic opportunities and commitments across the state.
I invite you to visit and experience the vibrancy and energy of the city and of UConn Hartford.
Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Ph.D.
Director, UConn Hartford
Professor of History and Latinx Studies