Earlier this month, the Yale College Council chose three projects to support through its inaugural New Ideas Fund, a program established this year to help fund and establish innovative student initiatives.
Over 30 undergraduates applied for funding last fall, and of these, between seven and 10 students were interviewed to determine how “logistically feasible” their projects were, according to YCC leaders. The student council hopes to see the projects come to fruition by the end of the semester.
Larry Fulton ’19, a member of the YCC committee tasked with evaluating the applications, said that feasible projects had detailed visions, reasonable timelines and fit within the fund’s budget of $6,600. The three projects eventually chosen include a website to publicize all Yale residential college teas, a plaque dedicated to Quinnipiac tribal land and the largest project: a cultural houses “Create and Celebrate” festival, led by Fernando Rojas ’19.
“What really sealed the deal for me to apply was that [YCC Student Life Director] Nick Zevallos ’19 pitched it as an idea to start new traditions,” said Rojas. “It would be cool to have a new tradition of cultural centers coming together that is planned every year.”
Rojas said his idea for the celebration spawned from his involvement with the La Casa Cultural House and his experience at the Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration Conference in November 2016. Rojas said that at the conference, visiting Yale professor Gary Okihiro, who taught a “Third World Studies” class at Yale last fall, spoke of a future in which scholars of different fields within ethnic studies look towards their respective fields, see similarities, realize their shared experiences and help each other grow. Okihiro’s comments resonated with Rojas, who has interacted with the Afro-American Cultural Center through his participation in WORD, a spoken poetry group with ties to the center.
Liana Wang ’20, another member of the YCC committee that evaluated applicants, said that Rojas’ project had an “artistic aspect” that appealed to her, and noted that while the project was “very ambitious,” Rojas planned it out well. Fulton also said that the YCC felt confident in funding the project, which he said has the potential to bring together the YCC, the cultural centers and the Yale community at large.
The project would culminate in a week-long “art suite” celebrating diversity on campus.
“I wanted to see a project, not tied to one house, to span all four of them,” Rojas said.
Another fund recipient, Julia Weiner ’19, aims to create a website that compiles all residential college teas. Fulton said that often, college teas will only attract a “small niche” group of students because only students within the college hear about them. He said that Weiner’s website would publicize all the residential college teas to the broader Yale community and increase turnout to each event.
Kodi Alvord ’17 proposed a plaque to commemorate the University land formerly owned by the Quinnipiac Native American tribe. Fulton said that when reviewing the application, he immediately loved it.
“It hit all expectations in a cost effective way,” Fulton said. “[Alvord] knew what he was doing, had already talked to administration, and the project was realistic and straightforward … and it unites the Yale community.”
Wang also added that the YCC hopes to play an advisory role in each of the selected projects and will talk to the administration on behalf of Rojas, Weiner and Alvord whenever necessary. The council will also help to create and maintain a timeline while still minimizing YCC influence on the students’ vision of their projects, she added.
Fulton said that the YCC will have different amounts of involvement with each project, as each project’s needs vary. He said he expects the website to require the most administrative effort, as college teas are held by each residential college and take more planning. Still, Fulton noted that Rojas’s project is the largest of the three projects in ambition, scope and funding, and said he is excited to work with him.
Rojas said that moving forward, he would like to see his idea become an annual tradition.
“The idea of new tradition is really cool and I hope it carries on,” said Rojas.
The Quinnipiac reservation at Mioonhktuck is located in East Haven.