This spring, students from across Yale’s campus joined the 2021 iteration of the Climate Solutions Generator (CSG), an extracurricular program now in its third year. The program, a joint offering of Tsai CITY and the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY), brings together workshops, guest talks, and project work in a series of seven weekly sessions. Despite the constraints of running the program fully virtually, this year’s CSG drew its largest cohort yet: more than 50 students participated, from departments ranging from architecture to chemistry. Here’s a look at their experiences.
Students played key roles in planning and leading the CSG: three student coordinators worked closely with Tsai CITY/CBEY Innovation Fellow Ben Soltoff to produce the 2021 program.
The coordinators drew on their own interests and experiences as they managed program logistics, connected with speakers, supported cohort teams, and more.
“Last summer I interned at a Yale-alum startup, Forested Foods, which works to prevent deforestation in Ethiopia. That internship made me more interested in learning about other climate solutions and innovations, and I wanted to learn about some of the tools necessary for climate innovators to succeed.” — Jackie Ruggiero, YSE/SOM
“Personally and professionally, I’ve been dedicated to participating in solutions that combat the climate crisis. I’ve also always enjoyed roles that involve events planning, education, and community building. When I discovered this opportunity at Yale that combines these interests, I immediately felt motivated to become involved.” — Victoria Mansfield, YSE
They also saw the CSG as an opportunity to connect with a broad community of people who cared about climate change — and to find ways to translate that shared concern into tangible action.
“I became interested in the Climate Solutions Generator because I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends and family who care about climate change but don’t know how to best make an impact. Coordinating the CSG is a great opportunity to work with that demographic of people who care and want to explore their change-making abilities, while also honing my skills as a climate innovation mentor.” — Anelise Zimmer, YSE
The intensive drew a large cohort, despite the fact that it was a voluntary, extracurricular activity: students participated out of interest alone, rather than for academic credit or pay. One common theme in students’ motivations? A sense of urgency when it comes to climate change.
“As a purely extracurricular addition to already busy schedules, I was pleasantly surprised that so many students wanted to participate in the CSG. And there was such a cross-cutting representation of the Yale network. Coming from the environment school, I anticipated that the majority of those participating would be from YSE. But I was wrong. It was so inspiring to see that so many Yale students care about climate change and want to work together on finding lasting, innovative solutions.” — Talia Rubnitz, YSE
This focus on connecting with a cross-campus community was another key motivator for many students.
“I wanted to get the chance to create an impactful solution and learn from graduate students. In my undergrad coursework, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about climate change, but I wanted to use CSG to actually apply my knowledge and passions to hopefully create a solution that has a lasting impact. Additionally, as an undergrad, I wanted to expand my network and learn about career paths and the different graduate schools from grad students!” — Bennett Hall, Yale College
In the programs’ seven sessions, students explored key skills for climate innovation, from understanding environmental justice to raising funds. Complementing this curriculum, the CSG also offered a hands-on learning experience: The cohort was organized into 13 teams, each of which worked quickly to brainstorm and develop an idea for a climate solution.
“One of the main reasons I grew interested in environmental work is because of the endless opportunities for innovation, and CSG was the perfect opportunity to explore that interest. As a first-year at SOM, I hadn’t yet had a chance to use my business school skills in a creative context. I was excited about the way CSG provided a low-stakes environment in which to brainstorm and think outside the box while also strengthening the practical skills needed to bring an idea to fruition.” — Isabel Moore, SOM
“My team took a long time mulling over ideas and different trains of thought, but it surprised me how once we had our idea, how much it clicked and came together at the end. That was a really good feeling — to be able to work on something that we were all excited about.” — Claire Cody, GSAS
During CSG sessions, participants didn’t just learn from the program’s leaders and guest speakers — they also learned from each other, particularly when working in interdisciplinary teams.
“I had an absolutely amazing team that was incredibly interdisciplinary in nature, where we were able to synergize our efforts and perspectives to come up with the Blooming Buildings initiative. My team members ranged in specializing in Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, engagement with the Yale Carbon Charge task force, as well as having extensive involvement with climate change grassroots organizations centered on advocating for optimal sustainability.” — Romero Santiago, YSM/YSPH
“Each of us came from different backgrounds, so I learned about new ways to think about solutions in the food space. I also learned about new resources to leverage.” — Neha Singh, SOM
Teams developed projects of all kinds, proposing innovations in fields from agriculture to electrification. In the process, they learned about the work that goes into building on early-stage ideas.
“Through the eight weeks, I learned about framing a solution, creating a niche for my start-up, acquiring funding, pitching the startup, and many other things. Despite having 2.5 hour sessions each week to work through each step, I was surprised by how much work was left to do! This really showed me how much time, energy, and passion entrepreneurs must have to take their projects from an idea to a full-fledged operation. “— Bennett Hall, Yale College
At the program’s conclusion, the teams presented their work in a public showcase event.
“I was really impressed to see how well the projects came together in such a short amount of time. In just six weeks, our team went from trying to coalesce around an idea, to having a fleshed out project that included funding ideas, next steps, and a potential New Haven partner organization. Seeing it pull together in the final stages was a cool part of the process!” — Victoria Gramuglia, YSE
Looking forward, students are excited to expand on what they’ve learned in the CSG: they’re leaving the program with ideas to build on, a community to stay connected with, and a renewed sense of optimism.
“My biggest takeaway is a better awareness for all the incredible, passionate people who are already out there making a difference and working towards a better future. From the panelists and speakers to the organizers and the other participants, it was really inspiring to meet others who have the same passions but are coming from so many different experiences and angles. It gave me hope!” — Claire Cody, GSAS