Ben Raab, Contributing Photographer

The student advisory board for the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale held a community mixer this past week — the first event the group has hosted in its new building since it opened in 2020. 

Launched in 2017, Tsai CITY is an “innovation center” where Yale students can go to learn about entrepreneurship, pitch their own ideas and collaborate with other students on different projects. The board hoped that the community mixer held on Oct. 7, which was the first in-person event hosted by them at Tsai CITY since the start of the pandemic, would introduce more students to Tsai CITY’s offerings.

“We noticed that the Tsai CITY building has not been utilized by students as an innovation and collaboration space, as is its intended purpose,” board member Miriam Huerta ’23 wrote in an email to the News. “Rather, throughout the week, students typically come in and work quietly, essentially treating it as an extra library. In order to upend this culture that was established due to strict COVID-19 policies that were in place when the building first opened last year, we decided to host a series of events for students from around the university to come and mingle with each other!”

The center — a 12,500-foot, two-story modernist building with curved glass windows — initially opened in August 2020, but its in-person operations were soon halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, with the 2022-2023 school year underway and Tsai CITY open for business, the student advisory board, consisting of a multidisciplinary group of students from Yale College and Yale’s graduate programs, is looking to show the center in its new form. The mixer featured games, raffles and live music from the student band Noize Complaint.

One of the main focuses of the student advisory board, which bridges the gap between students and Tsai CITY’s full-time staff, is figuring out how to utilize its state-of-the-art facilities and resources to get students involved.

Board member Yash Bhansali ’23, who referred to the center as “a melting pot for ideas, events and general growth on Yale’s campus,” hopes that the event attendees came away with an improved understanding of what Tsai CITY can offer them. 

“We hope that our invitees and guests were able to envision their own events being conducted in the space, learn more about the innumerable opportunities at CITY and bring them one step closer to making the space their top choice for the discussion, experimentation and realization of paradigm shifting initiatives,” Bhansali said. 

In addition to various community building events and innovation workshops, Tsai CITY offers several funding streams for student designed projects.

Any undergraduate student can apply for one of these funding opportunities, ranging from $500 for students “looking to advance an early-stage idea or project” to a $25,000 grant for a “for-profit or non-profit startup with the potential to help improve the financial health of the financially underserved.”

The center also offers mentorship from staff or a network of over 400 Yale alumni who offer targeted mentoring to student teams. Any student can schedule a 30-minute session with one of the nine mentors featured on the Tsai CITY webpage

The student mixer is the first of three events the center plans to host this semester. Board member Arden Yum ’25 is looking forward to seeing students at future events. 

“We hope students have fun meeting each other, find out how to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life, and keep coming back to space,” Yum said. “We want to keep hosting mixers for student groups on campus.” 

Tsai CITY was established through a gift from Alibaba co-founder and Yale alum Joseph Tsai ’86 GRD ’90.

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Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.