Tsai CITY aims to inspire students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to seek innovative ways to solve real-world problems. The purpose of Tsai CITY’s mentoring program is to provide all students joining this journey of innovation with access to effective mentorships in an environment that provides positive experiential, professional, relational, and educational support.
"One of my mentors dared me to think bigger."
We see innovation as a mindset and skillset that students can apply in any field, and we welcome mentors who bring expertise in a wide range of sectors. To us, successful mentoring not only helps students navigate specific fields and challenges, but also helps them develop core skills and competencies like goal-setting, problem-solving, self-awareness, interdisciplinary collaboration, and persistence — skills that they will carry with them no matter where they go after Yale. Here are some examples, as told by students, of how mentors from different fields have offered insights:
Technology: “Our mentors strongly advised us on looking quickly into the unclear terms of our business model, patentable items, and the legal implications for the technology we are looking to implement.”
Health and wellness: “Valuable advice that I received from one of my mentors is that after each mentoring meeting, I need to ask for at least three other contacts of people who could inform the design of my product or idea.”
Arts and culture: “One of my mentors dared me to think bigger; I kept my plan small because I did not think that I could raise enough money to start my company, but I have learned now that my project can work best on a larger scale than when starting small.”
To learn more about the projects our students are working on, please explore our 2020-2021 annual report.
About our mentors
Tsai CITY’s mentor network is a robust, engaged circle of more than 500 practitioners in all stages of their careers — from founders and social innovators to experts in finance, law, technology, education, and other fields — who can advise our growing student ideas, ventures, and creative projects. Selected mentors are invited every year to share their expertise, leadership, and personal approach to innovation. Selections of Yale alumni and friends of Yale are based on each mentor’s unique characteristics and how they match the interests of current student innovators on campus.
Frequently asked questions
Who should volunteer to be mentors?
Our mentors lead their interactions with students with the phrase, “How can I help you?” We welcome all Yale alumni and friends of Yale dedicated to advancing the university's goal of creating a “learning environment that cultivates innovators, leaders, creators, and entrepreneurs in all fields and for all sectors of society.”
What time commitment does it involve?
We’ll work with you to tailor all opportunities for engagement with our students to provide the most meaningful and productive experience possible for all parties. Your engagement could mean a couple of hours per semester or one hour every two weeks, depending on the project goals of our students and your time availability. Throughout this process, you’ll stay in control of your time and the range of support provided to our students.
How many people should I mentor?
You’ll also stay in control of how many mentees you are willing to accept. We suggest that you start with one and only take others when you feel comfortable to do so.
Are there rules Tsai CITY mentors must follow?
For a mentor relationship to develop, Tsai CITY mentors acknowledge that confidentiality is essential for the success of a mentee's venture or project. Tsai CITY mentors are volunteers and do not receive any compensation for their support for mentees. Additionally, Yale University has issued important policies to provide an environment of trust between members of its community (i.e., students, faculty, staff and other institutional supporters, included but not limited to guests and consultants). Tsai CITY mentors belong to this community and also agree to these policies.
What have participating Tsai CITY mentors reported as benefits of involvement?
Through their mentorship support, mentors stay connected to the Yale community and experience both personal and professional satisfaction when they advise students participating in our program. Many mentors have also reported gaining fresh perspectives on their own areas of expertise by engaging with our students’ ideas, projects, and ventures.
What other options for mentoring can I find within the Yale community?
Our university is committed to increasing student mentoring support across campus. Beyond Tsai CITY’s project-based mentoring opportunities for Yale alumni and friends of Yale, there are many other great programs that provide equally rewarding experiences around topics such as career-path choices, work-life balance, and other academic-related efforts. In April of 2020, the Yale Alumni Association announced the launch of Cross Campus, a new networking, community-building, and mentoring platform now open to Yale students and alumni. This launch was supported by Tsai CITY, and it has proven to be an effective way for student and alumni innovators to connect with potential mentors, participate in focused discussion boards, access curated resources for a wide range of interests, and more. Since launch, a Tsai CITY-moderated Cross Campus group for Yalies called Entrepreneurship and Innovation has quickly gained new members.