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I-Tri Celebrates Sixth Year and Power of Teamwork

One by one, the students in the Innovation Trimester took turns presenting to the owner and general manager of two pottery studios in Connecticut. Calm, cool, collected.

“It is incredible how creative, imaginative, intelligent, and mature they all are,” said Danielle Pachkovsky, the general manager of the pottery studios. “I felt that from the first time I met them. Every single one of them hit the ground running, the moment they walked through the door, trying to problem-solve, learn about us, and how they could help us.”

The students in the program, all seniors, were tasked with helping The Claypen of West Hartford reimagine its space, and help The Firestone of Manchester enhance its sustainable practices and share its sustainability work with the community. This was the third major project of the I-Tri course for the 16 seniors who stepped away from their regular classes and daily schedules in the spring term to tackle real-world challenges faced by local businesses and nonprofit organizations. The final presentation on Wednesday, May 22, also served as a celebration of this year’s I-Tri.

Sophia Dzialo, the owner of studios, was thankful for all of the suggestions she heard from the students. She said she has long pondered how to maximize the small space of the Claypen but hasn’t found the time to assess the options. And that was what the I-Tri students provided. “That will be one of my big takeaways,” she said.

One of the big takeaways for senior Sylvia Barresi was the real-life aspect of the program. She is interested in business, “so this was an incredible hands-on experience, really inspiring,” she said. She described the program as a great opportunity to connect with students she had not previously, and she praised the I-Tri’s collaborative nature.

I-Tri final presentation

With The Firestone of Manchester, Conn., in the background, Tahmir Murphy addresses the owners. Tahmir grew up in Manchester, making the presentation that much more meaningful to her.

So did senior Tahmir Murphy.

“You learn things about yourself, how to work in a group, how to tailor things to the [client], how to market yourself and your ideas so a business will take you seriously and understand that your solutions are marketable and viable,” Tahmir said.

 Working with The Firestone was especially gratifying for Tahmir, who grew up in Manchester and said the project was a special opportunity “to help a business in my hometown.”

The I-Tri is a rigorous program that demands hard work and self-reflection. “It’s a full-time job,” Tahmir said.

“We're here pretty much all day every day,” Sylvia said. The work is less about going to classes and doing homework and more about collaborating with peers outside of the daily schedule.

Collaboration is key, and this is where ants — yes, ants — come in. At the conclusion of the I-Tri celebration, program director Jennine Solomon thanked the students for making this sixth year of the program a success. She mentioned that her 7-year-old child was infatuated by ants from a YouTube video. Many people know the fun fact that an ant can carry many times its own weight, she said, “which is such an individual achievement. But the video talks about them being so successful because they are a highly collaborative species.”

She laughed. “This is where I transition to humans — everyone was wondering. I got there. This made me think a lot about us as humans.”

Jen Solomon, I-Tri director, 2024 final presentation and celebration

I-Tri Director Jen Solomon, far right, with flowers given by students. The 2024 class really bloomed as the program went along.

Human beings need to work together, she said, so collaboration is a central element to the I-Tri program. She said this year’s group worked together at an extremely high level, which led to better solutions and better presentations.

Jen said the students also were resilient. When a solution they explored didn’t work, they moved on. “Their leaning into discomfort, their ability to navigate ambiguity was huge in terms of the overall success,” she said. “They responded well to feedback from teachers and clients, and that allowed them to some up with ideas that they would test with less attachment before diving in fully.”

Like the ant, each student carried more than his or her weight. But their real power was in teamwork.

This year’s other projects:

1st Major Project: SoulFully Vegan, Black woman-owned vegan restaurant, Berlin, Conn.

Challenge: How can SoulFully Vegan leverage emerging social media platforms to connect with a broader audience and increase brand awareness? In what ways can SoulFully Vegan differentiate itself from competitors in the local market, fostering brand loyalty and repeat business?

2nd Major Project: Mira’s Jewelry Design, woman-owned jewelry store, Middletown, Conn. Part of the project also focused on the owner’s nonprofit Forever in My Heart.

Challenge: How might Mira’s Jewelry Design engage potential customers online without significant financial investment? How might the Forever in My Heart Foundation promote its new apprentice program?

The I-Tri participants this year:

Mark Advena

Sylvia Barresi

Logan Elie

Leila Fournier

Julia Grant

Chloe Kahn

Nicole Levine

Hannah Lund

Alister MacLean

Lily Magliacano

Tahmir Murphy

Chelsea Ndzana-Zogo

Chichi Oreh

Jackie Ryckman

Emma Sage

Charlotte Tobin

Firestone and Claypen owner and GM

Sophia Dzialo, the owner of the studios, and Danielle Pachkovsky, the general manager.


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