Madelyn Kumar

At a university with 300 years of history and tradition, the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale seeks to inspire students to change the norm.

Launched last fall, Tsai CITY, the campus hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, is currently being housed temporarily at 254 Elm St. until its building at Becton Plaza is completed later this year. Although CITY is a fairly new presence on campus, the center offers a diverse spread of programming and attracts students from all corners of Yale’s campus, according to Cassandra Walker Harvey, managing director of Tsai CITY.

“We’ve engaged over 800 students this fall through various programs and offerings,” said Emma Funk, a social innovation fellow at the center.

Several Tsai CITY staff members expressed excitement over the high demand for this year’s Blockchain Bootcamp. The two-day program, which CITY communications director Laura Mitchell called a “huge success,” ran earlier this year and drew 284 signups, according to Funk. Funk added that another popular program was the L’Oreal Product Development Intensive, which drew 78 applications.

While many CITY events have met with success, a few, including member orientations, had to be cancelled due to low enrollment. According to Funk, CITY also stopped offering “Raggedy” sessions, which focused on open conversations around current events. Instead, she said, CITY will try to work this community-building spirit into its speaker events this spring.

Moving forward into the spring semester, CITY is continuing to experiment with the formats their programs take, as staff start to “better understand the rhythms of the semester and what structures best suit different topics,” Funk said.

Harvey added that she anticipates students’ commitments intensifying in the spring, which may make full-day programs less feasible.

Another adjustment that CITY is making is extending the length of their Spark sessions, which Mitchell described as “organized chaos”-style innovative brainstorming. She said that Spark attendees routinely left the creativity sessions wishing they had more time — and the center has responded by augmenting the sessions from an hour to 90 minutes.

The center is also working toward making the time commitment and level of experience required for each activity more transparent, said Harvey. She added that the center hopes to implement more formal designations for these categories on its website.

A highlight for the Tsai Center, according to Harvey and Mitchell, has been its interdisciplinary collaborations. Both expressed excitement about partnerships with La Casa, the Asian-American Cultural Center and the Divinity School.

Mitchell also highlighted that CITY strives to take an open-minded approach to innovation, encouraging people of all academic backgrounds and interests to explore.

“The way we think about innovation is that it is a mindset that can be applied in any sector,” she said.

Jessica Pevner |