The Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale engaged with over 10 percent of the Yale student body in the 2018–19 academic year through workshops, mentorships, competitions and camps, according to a preliminary report by the center.
Tsai CITY was launched in Fall 2017 to create an interdisciplinary learning environment that encourages student innovation. Now, at the end of its second year, Tsai CITY reported that it reached over 1,300 Yale students, hosted more than 30 workshops and provided over $100,000 in funding to students since Aug. 1, 2018.
“We’re feeling good about the statistics,” said managing director of Tsai CITY Kassie Tucker. “Yale has a very vibrant and ever-growing culture around innovation. We will continue to seek opportunities to improve at every corner to offer what students want and need.”
According to Tucker, Tsai CITY’s biggest successes were its “intensives” — multi-session, cohort-based, experiential learning opportunities that explored topics such as health care, data analytics, plant-based foods, application designs and knowledge equity. She said that they were always “highly rated and highly demanded, and rightly so.”
The center has also served as a great “starting point” for students who may not have specific interests yet, said Nya Holder ’17 SPH ’18, an innovation fellow at Tsai CITY.
She added that the center helps students through three main ways — programming workshops and initiatives, providing mentorship and funding student innovation efforts — and that these resources are open to “anyone who is looking to realize an idea that they have” including writing books, launching a student club or building up their personal brand.
Faculty at Tsai CITY also pointed to the success of Tsai CITY’s role as an interdisciplinary innovation hub that connects a wide range of students and resources.
“Students don’t always know everything that is available here, especially the resources at graduate schools,” said Emma Funk, the social innovation fellow at the center. “So we have focused on connecting all the available expertise across Yale to make it more accessible to students and to foster interdisciplinary innovation.”
Funk said Tsai CITY has a “huge focus on collaboration,” which has led to the coordination of programs with the Center for Business and the Environment and InnovateHealth Yale. She added that many of the student groups at Tsai CITY consist of a mix of students of various backgrounds, education levels and disciplines.
Nicholas Chedid MED ’19, the CEO of Sol — a company developing a mobile application that can assess risk for depression — told the News that Tsai CITY provided useful guidance and resources. His company, which was founded after his team won the Tsai Innovation prize at the Yale Healthcare Hackathon in January 2018, utilized Tsai CITY’s 2018 spring “Accelerator” program — a semesterlong program which consists of workshops, mentorship and a $1,000 grant.
“The programs in Accelerator and the mentorship that was provided helped us to organize the way we want to move forward with our business model and technology development,” he said. “We will like to continue to utilize Tsai CITY’s resources like the connections that they have and we might also apply to be part of the summer Accelerator program.”
In an interview with the News in January, Funk said that the Tsai CITY is continuing to experiment with the formats their programs take, as staff start to “better understand the rhythms of the semester and what structure best suit[s] different topics.” Tsai CITY administrators continued to voice a commitment to flexibly adapting to student needs.
Tucker, Tsai CITY’s managing director, told the News that the center has been working with its “amazing” student faculty advising board in order to cater more effectively to student needs.
Holder, who leads the student faculty advising board, said that Tsai CITY can improve by encouraging students “to think more broadly about what innovation means” and to publicize the fact that Tsai CITY is not only about entrepreneurship but also innovation in a “broader sense.”
Tsai CITY was launched by the University after a gift from the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation.
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