Yale to build center for innovative thinking

Yale is launching a new university-wide center for innovative thinking. The center’s mission will be to inspire students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to seek innovative ways to solve real-world problems.

Housed in a new building on Becton Plaza near the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), the center will comprise more than 10,000 square feet of dedicated space for innovation programming. Together with the CEID’s maker space, it will serve as the anchor for a vibrant corridor of discovery, creation, and new ideas at the heart of the university.

The center is the next step in realizing President Peter Salovey’s goal to “provide an unsurpassed campus learning environment that cultivates innovators, leaders, pioneers, creators, and entrepreneurs in all fields and for all sectors of society.”

“Innovative thinking is fundamental to a liberal arts education, whether you study engineering or art history,” said Salovey ’86 Ph.D. “By fostering this important skill, the new center will be a vital contributor to Yale’s mission of educating leaders and improving the world.”

The center, funded by gifts from anonymous donors, will be open to all students in all schools across the university. It will offer programming, both formal and informal, ranging from alumni talks to student meet-ups to hackathons. Some existing programs will move into the new center, including some of the student-focused programs of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI).

The center will not offer courses for credit, but it will provide workshops and short skill-based classes.

“We don’t want the center to recreate the curriculum we already have in Yale College and the professional schools,” said Provost Ben Polak. “For example, Yale School of Management (SOM) has an exciting new Program on Entrepreneurship. The School of Engineering & Applied Science, Yale Law School, and many of our other schools have courses that hone problem-solving and promote innovative thinking. This center will provide another avenue for students to develop and practice what they are learning in their courses.”

Diversity — of participating schools, disciplines, and academic interests, as well as of gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic class, or disability — will be an explicit part of the center’s mission. A dedicated fund will support new initiatives that encourage participation by underrepresented groups, as well as providing stable support for existing programs and organizations.

A member of the Yale faculty will be appointed as a part-time faculty director for the center, and the university will conduct a nationwide search for an executive director to oversee the center’s day-to-day operations. Yale welcomes candidates for this role with significant innovation experience in any sector, including involvement in for-profit or non-profit startup ventures. Staff program coordinators, postgraduate fellows, and alumni mentors will support the center’s operations, organize programs and events, and mentor and advise students.

The center’s location, at a strategic campus intersection, positions it near Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges, the Schwarzman Center, engineering and computer science, Yale Law School, Yale SOM, and Science Hill.

“By placing the new center on Becton Plaza right next to the CEID,” Polak said, “we hope to increase the buzz of innovative activity.”