James Larson

Four New Haven business and nonprofit leaders shared their stories about living and working in the Elm City with Yalies in an event organized by the Yale College Council on Friday afternoon.

Titled “Consider New Haven,” the panel was a collaboration between the YCC’s business and city teams. The panelists themselves hailed from industries across the Elm City. After brief opening remarks from Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22, panelists — who included Havenly Treats Executive Director Caterina Passoni ’18, New Haven Symphony Orchestra CEO Elaine Carroll, Newman Architects Principal José Hernández and United Way of Greater New Haven CEO Jennifer Heath — dispensed advice and answered questions from students. YCC business team project manager and panel moderator Yousra Omer ’22 suggested the event and led planning efforts.

“I think a lot of students have the impression of a Yale bubble and things like that,” Omer said in an interview with the News. “[We are] starting to find ways to penetrate that and make sure that we’re getting representation from different parts of the city.”

While both the city director and business director are appointed positions within the YCC, the city team operates under the purview of Vice President Grace Kang ’21 in the student government’s policy branch. Meanwhile, the business team operates under YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21 as a part of the operations branch. Sophie Cappello ’20 is the inaugural city director, and Liam Muldoon ’22 leads the business team under Greene’s leadership.

After the YCC created a Yale-New Haven Task Force last year, the YCC’s business team launched a partnership with the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Last spring, the YCC funded a handful of outings into the Elm City each weekend toward the end of the semester and encouraged Yalies to explore places like Artspace and the Long Wharf food trucks.

However, a number of other planned initiatives aiming to create bonds between Yalies and the Elm City fell through — including a summer handbook for Yalies staying in New Haven, a database with New Haven jobs and a New Haven jobs fair hosted on campus — after little work was done on the projects toward the end of the school year and through summer, according to multiple sources.

In addition to hiring Cappello, the YCC co-hosted a fall harvest festival with the Yale Black Men’s Union and the New Haven Free Public Library’s Stetson branch in the library space with a number of Dixwell community groups.

“It’s so great to see folks from the business community in New Haven and students coming together for a conversation like this,” Sabin said in his opening remarks. “I hope we’re not just considering New Haven but choosing New Haven in the end.”

About 20 Yalies, many of whom are involved in the YCC, filled the Davenport common room on Friday afternoon to listen and learn. The event started as a moderated panel before Omer opened the floor to questions from attendees. Students asked about entrepreneurship in the Elm City, ways to bridge the gap between Yale and New Haven and how the panelists followed their passions.

While Passoni was the only Yalie on the panel, the other three panelists all have some tie to the Yale community. Carroll’s NHSO plays its concerts in Woolsey Hall, and Newman Architects’ office sits across from Morse and Stiles colleges. Moreover, United Way and Yale collaborate on an annual fundraising campaign for the nonprofit. None of the panelists grew up in New Haven and instead made the decision to move to the Elm City.

After introducing themselves and their various career paths, the panelists emphasized that they did not always see themselves in the positions they hold now. Carroll went to college to become a flutist, and Hernández once worked digging trenches in the South Texas heat before serving in the military. The Elm City leaders also gave students advice on how to build better bonds with New Haven and find job opportunities at their organizations and others in the area. Passoni specifically criticized the relationship between Yale and New Haven as “problematic” and pointed to when her friends questioned her decision to stay in the Elm City past graduation.

“It’s just such an amazing opportunity to be where you are in this environment and you can make it what you want,” Hernández told attendees. “[You have] the opportunity to get involved in a city [that] is about to take its next step.”

According to YCC business team member Bryce Banks ’23, the YCC aimed to encourage students to see New Haven as a business and entrepreneurial option by hosting the panel and showcasing a wide diversity of business fields. Organizers also wanted to give Yalies the opportunity to pose their own questions to New Haven professionals and meet them face to face.

“We wanted this to be an incipience … to the beginning of a wider conversation that we want to have with Yale students and with the broader New Haven community,” Muldoon told the News in an interview. “[We are] just seeing what ways we can work together to share this space and this city.”

Muldoon also emphasized that he is looking to connect with even more businesses and nonprofits in the Elm City. According to Banks, the YCC business team is actively working with other New Haven companies to secure sponsorships and promote their stores.

The YCC was established in 1972.

Jose Davila IV | jose.davilaiv@yale.edu