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Tsai CITY Faculty Director Ushers in New Year of Innovation at Yale

A man focused on his computer screen, typing away with determination.

Tucked away on the lower level of Davenport College is the unconventional new addition to Yale’s innovation ecosystem. Unveiled in October 2023, the Davenport Innovation Studio offers a transformed activity space for students to explore the practice of building out their ideas in an informal learning environment. 

To most Davenport residents, the unassuming basement room near the building’s laundry seemed fit for storage and little else. But to Tsai CITY faculty director and head of Davenport College, Anjelica Gonzalez, the space possessed a greater potential.

“Listening for places where we could do better, or be better, or provide more—that’s exactly how this innovation studio first came about.”

Anjelica Gonzalez, Tsai CITY faculty director and head of Davenport College 

“Listening for places where we could do better, or be better, or provide more—that’s exactly how this innovation studio first came about,” Anjelica relates. “One of the things that students kept telling me is that they were most excited by talks in which someone was giving them direction and teaching them something very relevant to what they want to do in the world. And so what that meant to me was that students wanted to learn how to translate foundational knowledge or theory into practice in both small and large ways.”

The resulting Davenport Innovation Studio represents months of collaboration between the Class of ‘55, Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY), Yale College, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) to bring Anjelica’s vision to fruition. It is inspired by the work of late alumnus David McCullough, whose writing showcased the bravery of creating new spaces through innovation. In this spirit, the new studio space is intended as a professional playground for students seeking to understand the practicality of an idea or an early prototype. The studio is equipped with machines and materials to cover both creative and technical explorations into areas such as sewing, leatherworking, painting, woodworking, soldering, and 3-D printing. “The Innovation Studio is a very inspiring and empowering space,” shared Joseph Zinter, Assistant Director at the CEID and a Fellow of Davenport College. “I have no doubt that Davenport and Pierson students will do amazing things there.” 

Some of the equipment and tools provided inside Davenport Innovation Studio. 

But the beauty of the space is that students don’t need a clear idea to get involved—it can be used for everyday needs, like mending a pair of pants or crafting a Halloween costume, or for more sustained projects that might be supported by other innovation hubs at Yale. “I hope students who never would have had access to or thought about, say, building an electrical unit, get to learn if they have the curiosity,” Anjelica explains. “It’s a starting point for some students to see the practicality of an idea and a way to engage the studio with what’s going to happen in Tsai CITY, or the CEID, or any of the entrepreneurial collaboratives later on. It’s an opportunity for students to bring whatever ideas they already have out for themselves, vet them for themselves, and then get them an opportunity for the next steps.”

black woman sewing
Students creating garments using the sewing equipment inside of the Davenport Innovation Studio.

As a Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Faculty Director at Tsai CITY and Head of Davenport College, Anjelica is uniquely poised to impart the interdisciplinary professional skills that students need. In the coming months, Anjelica hopes to offer further workshops and mentorship in partnership with centers on campus to enhance students’ learning journeys. Ultimately, however, her hope is that students find a use for the space in whatever form that takes for them. “I think students have some of the best ideas, and they will continue to generate ideas about what could come out of the space,” shared Anjelica. “I hope students surprise themselves with what they are capable of and what they can create. I really want this to be a space that’s going to be used probably in ways that I can’t predict. Some of the ideas that students are proposing, like an aquaponics project, I would never have guessed, so I’m hopeful that it’s a space that’s going to be inspiring and inspired by students.”