CITY Intensives Give Yale Students Hands-On Experience in Food Businesses, Biotech Designs, Public Art and More

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This semester, the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) is launching a series called CITY Intensives that are designed to give students an opportunity to explore timely topics in small-group settings that fall outside of traditional classroom curriculuma. Topics include hands-on biotech, starting a food business, blockchain, public art and tactical urbanism, net zero and fake news. Led by CITY staff, partners and experts, these Intensives allow students to gain practical knowledge and put it into practice.

"The idea of the intensive is to give Yale students a crash course in something practical - a learning experience that's deeper than a workshop, but more focused than a semester-long class," says CITY Executive Director Andrew McLaughlin.  "Students should emerge from these intensives with new, practical skills and new insights about how to solve problems in creative ways."

It’s an open secret that Yale students have a penchant for food ventures, turning out startups like Snackpass (app for food deals), Junzi Kitchen (delicious bings and noodle bowls), Zoni Foods (healthy frozen plant-based meal kits) and Chops Snacks (specialty beef jerky) in recent years. But there’s yet to be a program at Yale specifically aimed at teaching the ins and outs of developing and launching a food business. CITY’s Food Intensive aims to be the first. Led by Emma Funk, CITY’s Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, and Justin Freiberg, Director of the Yale Landscape Lab, the 5-week experience on West Campus will take teams from idea to product, bringing in industry experts and food entrepreneurs and letting students experiment with new food products in a test kitchen.

“If you’re building an app,” says Funk, “you don’t need to know how to source ingredients that are perishable and only available for three months out of the year. We’ll help answer ‘What is different or complicated about launching a food business?’ We’re giving students a realistic understanding of each stage of the process, while still engaging with all that is fun and delicious about working with food.”

Another upcoming Intensive hopes to get non-science students into the lab to experiment with microscopes and design a wearable product. In “Hands-On Biotech,” students will grow cells and turn high-resolution images of their discoveries into real-life design projects. Alyssa Siefert, Engineering Director at the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, is leading the Intensive and says “My whole philosophy is that science is for everyone. I love to show people they can do something in the lab and increase their science literacy.” Not only are the images of cells under the microscope beautiful, says Siefert, but “showing someone cells under the microscope for the first time makes an impact. It makes you appreciate your body.”

Other Intensives on the horizon include a collaboration with Dwight Hall that will explore using public art as a form of social and political empowerment and bringing teams together to contribute to a net zero (or carbon neutral) world through hands-on projects in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment.   

"The intensives will collide students with expert mentors who'll help them imagine new futures and culture new skills," says McLaughlin. "These experiences will spark new collaborations to tackle real-world problems."

CONTACT: Brita Belli, Communications Officer, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, (203)804-1911,

Brita Belli