About The Encounters Series

The Encounters Series, a program dedicated to fostering unexpected conversations around divisive issues and obscure knowledge, began in Spring 2017 with the sponsorship of the Humility & Conviction in Public Life project, the Hartford Public Library (Hartford History Center), and the Wadsworth Atheneum (The Amistad Center for Art & Culture).

Encounters dives deeply into the subjects that are of interest to the Greater Hartford community through facilitated, small-group dialogues followed by a "question and answer"-style conversation with UConn faculty and community partners. Readings are provided beforehand to better encourage informed and informal dialogue within conversations that often prove to be polarizing, and thus unproductive.

The Fall 2018 Dialogues focused on public encounters around the relationship and dis/connection individuals have with disasters, home, and reality. Discussions centered on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, the continued effects of The Treaty of Hartford on state history, and relationship between Surrealism and War. New partners Connecticut's Old State House and the Akomawt Educational Initiative were welcomed.

The Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 Dialogues focused on public encounters that dealt with the communal ties that separate and bind us to one another. Special attention was also paid to the role of faith, knowledge, and art in these situations. To that end, dialogues were run on The 1%; the Voting Rights Act, Intrafaith Conflict, Alchemy & Science, The American Gothic, and Citizen. Encounters also partners with the University on the Day of Metanoia, "Togetherness: Confronting Racism," to present Encounters: Confronting Racism Through Dialogue.

The Spring 2017 Dialogues focused on public encounters with foundational documents that influence civic identity and politics within the United States, including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. The theme of the semester was "Rethinking Freedom."

Our Partners:

Hartford Public Library

Hartford History Center

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture

Connecticut's Old State House

Akomawt Educational Initiative


1/25/20 Encounters: Public Punishment, Race, and Remembrance

Saturday, January 25, 2010, 10am-12pm with lunch to follow
Old State House, 800 Main Street, Hartford, CT
RSVP to rebecca.taber-conover@cga.ct.gov

What does the history of punishment in Connecticut mean for us today? For twenty years, a reproduction stock and pillory have stood on the west side of Connecticut’s Old State House. Without any signage or description, myths and inaccurate information have grown up around them. But they have also spurred meaningful reflection on public punishment and its effects on individuals and communities. What, then, were stocks and pillories actually used for? Who was punished with such items? As historical artifacts, how do they affect passersby; and what unspoken messages do museums convey to people by displaying such devices with no explanation? Join us for a facilitation dialogue on the subjects of state punishment, the display of instruments of public humiliation, and the relationship between our museums and communities.

Lunch will be provided with free registration.

11/19/2019 Dialogue on Race and Community

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
3:00 pm-5:00 pm
Student Union Ballroom,
Register here.

The entire community is invited on Tuesday, November 19 at 3:00pm in the Student Union Ballroom to continue the discussion of how we grapple with racism on our campus and how we might work together to transform our University to support racial justice. This necessary conversation will allow participants to engage in an honest exchange about how race and racism affects different members of the UConn community and our community as a whole. As we work to create a welcoming UConn for all students, faculty, and staff, we must begin by listening to the diverse and often hidden ways in which race is experienced at UConn.  Our hope is that such listening can lead to understanding, and from understanding can come actions that make UConn a more just, equitable, and inclusive community.

Our gathering will consist of two parts. The first hour will include a moderated dialogue and the sharing of personal stories and perspectives on race, community and confronting racism by 8 members of our community: Elly Daugherty, Dean of Students; Trisha-Ann Hawthorne-Noble, Director of Student Athlete Development; Tom Katsouleas, University President; Kazem Kazerounian, Dean, School of Engineering; Andrew Kim `15, Associate Director, Alumni Relations, CLAS; Avolyn Nieves, Undergraduate Student & USG Outreach Commissioner; Steve Nunez, PhD Candidate, Philosophy; and Mark Overmyer-Velazquez, Department of History & Director, UConn Hartford Campus. This conversation will consist of three rounds: 1. discussion of personal experience of race and racism; 2. discussion of race in society; 3. discussion of what kinds of changes panelists would like to see in order to make UConn a more inclusive and equitable community.

The second hour will consist of individual table dialogues whereby those attending in the audience will go through those same 3 dialogue rounds. There will be individual table facilitators to guide conversation and recorders who will take down what is said in the 3rd round, i.e. participants’ suggestions for change.

This event will be hosted by Glenn Mitoma, Neag/Director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and co-moderated by Dominique Battle-Lawson, Neag, and Brendan Kane/History, Director of the Democracy and Dialogues Initiative. We look forward to seeing you there, hearing your voice, and continuing this critical conversation and collective self-reflection.

To register for this event, please fill out the form below. If you require an accommodation to participate, please email rsvp@uconn.edu or call 860-486-1001.

Attendance for the entire length of event is required. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

11/9/2019 Encounters: Afrocosmologies

Saturday, November 9, 2019
10:00 am-12:00 pm with lunch to follow
Wadsworth Atheneum, 600 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103
RSVP to faculty@wadsworthatheneum.org

What do the visual arts reveal about African-based religions and practices among the diaspora and in the Americas? In turn, how do those religions and practices influence black artists, past and present? What place does Hartford have in Afrocosmologies? Join us for a morning of facilitated conversation as we dive into these questions, explore the exhibition Afrocosmologies: American Reflections, and dialogue with neighbors and scholarly experts.

Lunch will be provided with free registration.

Encounters Series Events 2018-2019

Encounters: One Year After Maria:

When: Saturday, September 22, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library

What: On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. The surrounding destruction and displacement, along with Puerto Rico’s status as an unincorporated territory, has led some scholars, such as Yomaira Figueroa, to call the event a “natural colonial disaster.” Join us a year after Hurricane Maria for small group discussions on the historical and contemporary issues still plaguing Puerto Rico and federal responses to the crisis.

Encounters: Treaty of Hartford:

When: Saturday, September 29, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Courtroom, Old State House

What: The dynamics that led to the Treaty of Hartford, a turning point in American history, are not dead, but live on in our national culture today. In 1638, during the aftermath of a massacre of over 500 Pequot men, women, children, and elders, at Mystic, CT, this document set a precedent for Indigenous and settler relations for generations after. Join us as we discuss how historic documents can reflect our past and shape our present day understanding of land, colonialism, and our future together. To register, please email dana.miranda@uconn.edu. For readings, click here

Encounters: Surrealism and War:

When: Saturday, October 20, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Hartford Courant Room, Wadsworth Atheneum

What: In the midst of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and World War II (1939-45), European and American artists found themselves confronting the atrocities brought on by war. What was once thought mere fantasy became a devastating reality for those who would become part of the Surrealist Movement. Join us for small group discussions on the historic relationship between surrealism and war and how this understanding can impact how we think of art and war today. This Encounter will take place in conjunction with the Wadsworth's Fall Community Day, an all-ages celebration of the new exhibition, Monsters & Myths. Explore myths and stories from the past, use imagination to design a monster for today, and participate in a spectacular Surrealist Parade around the museum. Museum admission is free all day.

Encounters Conference:

When: Saturday, November 17, 8:30AM-5:30PM

Where: UConn Hartford, Hartford Times Building, 10 S Prospect St, Hartford

What: The Encounters Series is a structured-dialogue model that allows participants to come face-to-face and converse about the issues that matter in their community. Encounters: The Conference will bring together students, faculty, community members, and public institutions to experience the power of this unique dialogue model and learn how to run Encounters anywhere and everywhere.
More info here

Encounters: La Amistad:

When: Saturday, February 16, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Courtroom, Old State House

What: On July 1, 1839, fifty-three Mende captives overtook the crew of La Amistad. Unable to return to Africa, these individuals were interned in New Haven, Connecticut, while a trial deciding their fate took on the crucial question of the relationship between humanity and the ownership of human beings in the early Republic. Join us as we discuss the Amistad revolt; the Supreme Court case, United States v. The Amistad (1841); human rights and international politics; and the intimate connections between slavery and freedom. To register, please RSVP dana.miranda@uconn.edu.


1. United States v. The Amistad (pg. 518-531, pg. 534-35 "Deposition by Richard Robert Madden")
2. Slave Resistance by Manisha Sinha (pg. 406-414, particularly the “Shipboard Rebellions”)

Encounters: Emily Mae Smith and #MeToo:

When: Saturday, March 9, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Hartford Courant Room, Wadsworth Atheneum

What: Join us as we discuss artistic responses to gender and sexual violence alongside the powerful, contemporary movement which brings light to sexual harassment and sexual assault. Participants will join in a dialogue exploring the #MeToo movement and the paintings of MATRIX artist Emily Mae Smith, on exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Additional texts under discussion will be posted in advance. The event is free, but please RSVP faculty@wadsworthatheneum.org to reserve a seat and lunch.


Encounters: States of Incarceration:

When: Saturday, April 6, 10AM-12PM with lunch following

Where: Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library

What: “I have here unjustly suffered so much, and seen, and heard so much, that I am not as I was; my nature has become changed and hardened against my race—I feel myself let loose from all the ties of society—and that I have lost almost all the feelings of humanity.” This quote from an unnamed prisoner of Old Newgate Prison, the nation's first state prison, speaks to the dehumanizing and life-altering impact of imprisonment. Join us as we discuss both the historical and contemporary issue of incarceration at the local and national level to get a better understanding of how prisons function in American society. To register, please RSVP to jeagosto@hplct.org.


1. Letter from a formerly incarcerated individual, in relation to the documentary Life on Parole 
2. A History of Newgate of Connecticut (Selected Excerpts) by Richard Phelps
3. What Is Prison Abolition? By John Washington

Encounters Series Events 2017-2018

  Encountering Alchemy

  • When: Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford History Center of the Hartford Public Library
  • What: This small group discussion will take place in conjunction with the alchemy programming at the Wadsworth and focus on the hidden and surprising connections between science and alchemy. “Alchemy” is frequently used to define seemingly miraculous transformations in the social, economic, and political spheres. However, the term has its origins in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to designate a secretive practice pursued to transform base metals into precious gold, and ultimately to control the natural world. Join us for an exciting investigation of period texts about alchemy to learn about early forms of chemical experimentation, commerce, counterfeit, and the quest for natural resources.


  Encountering “The 1%”

  • When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Public Library, branch TBA
  • What: This small group discussion will take place in the context of the exhibition on JP Morgan at the Wadsworth - Morgan: Mind of the Collector - and focus on the relationship between private wealth and the public good. 


  Encountering Citizenship 

  • When: Saturday, February 24, 2018 -  10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Where: The Amistad Center for Art & Culture
  • What: This small group discussion will focus on the meaning and various processes of gaining or losing citizenship in the United States. 


 Encountering The Gothic

  • When: Saturday, March 3, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Where: Wadsworth Atheneum 
  • What: This small group discussion will take place in the Edward Gorey exhibition and will focus on our fascination and (dis)comfort with fear, suspense and death. 


  Encountering Intrafaith Dialogue

  • When: Saturday, April 21, 10 – 1 p.m. 
  • Where: Hartford History Center of the Hartford Public Library.
  • What: This small group discussion will focus on the dialogues faith-based groups have within their communities over the problems of dogma and conviction
    (in conjunction with the Midpoint Forum). In particular, it considers the broader social and political implications of unresolved internecine disagreement.


See our photos!
Read about the Encounters Series on the Hartford Courant!