Mosaic Stories

    Diana Zeng

     “Opening gateways to the city and making St. Louis a vibrant place to call home.”

    This is the driving force behind Full Circle. Its founder, Diana Zeng, is passionate about showing people what St. Louis has to offer. Diana Zeng has a strong love for St. Louis considering she has only lived here for 5 years. Originally from Chengdu, China, Diana Zeng spent her childhood moving around. From China to Chicago to Canada to Jersey to Boston, Diana has lived in many different places and never really had a sense of a hometown. That changed, however, when she decided to attend Washington University in St. Louis.

    Diana had originally planned to return to the East Coast after receiving her BSBA degree from the Olin Business School, but that changed during her third year in St. Louis. The summer before her senior year, Diana had an internship through the Skandalaris Center at WashU. This internship allowed Diana to explore the region and learn about the startup community in St. Louis. She explained the experience, “Within two months I had changed my mind from ‘I want to go back to Boston’, to ‘I actually feel like this is my city and I can be a part of it and do something that is really meaningful here.’”

    Once Diana realized how much she loved St. Louis, she became aware of how many of her peers did not feel the same way, mostly because they did not know what it had to offer. She said,“St. Louis may or may not be your type of city, just like how New York and LA aren’t for everyone, but it’s hard to know if you’ve only gone five miles off campus.” She was frustrated that there are so many universities in St. Louis with students who rarely leave their own “bubbles”. This led Diana and other members of the founding team to start Full Circle as a nonprofit organization to connect young talent in St. Louis.

    “We all got together and said: We want to be able to meet people, get to know the region, and actually feel like we are a part of St. Louis. In the years when we’re here, we want to make the most of it. Whether or not you choose to stay long-term, at least you got to know the city you lived in and can be an advocate for it. This is an economic development initiative focused on infusing the city with young talent and making St. Louis a vibrant and welcoming place to live and work.”

    This is what inspired Full Circle, which thanks to Downtown STL, Inc., T-REX, Cortex, and other partners, has started taking shape since early 2016. Full Circle currently has two types of events: CityTrek and “Beef and a Toast”. According to Diana, CityTrek is “really about exploring the local gems, the cultural aspects and the fun things in the city.” On the other hand, “Beef and a Toast” is more civic-minded and is about “hashing out your beef with St. Louis and toasting to how you can be a part of the solution.” All of Full Circle’s events are open to the community but focus on young adults looking to get connected with their peers and their city. 

    Full Circle has campus ambassadors from Washington University, Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Lindenwood, and other local schools. Diana hopes to connect students from various colleges in St. Louis. She explained, “Even though every other exit on the highway is a college, you rarely interact with someone from a different school. And beyond not getting to know other people our age in the region, there is not a direct channel to even explore the city. I think the mentality of staying on campus is common. Full Circle is about changing that mentality and being a channel for young talent to connect with St. Louis.” Full Circle also works with international students to show them what the city has to offer and to make them feel more welcome in St. Louis. Diana wants to be able to provide international students with resources like the St. Louis Mosaic Project that can open up opportunities to them.

    Diana loves St. Louis because of the opportunities it has to offer: “I think right now we are really going through a renaissance in the city and no matter your age, you can feel like you can do something meaningful and make a difference here. I really believe that St. Louis is a place where if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and put in the effort for something you care about, within a year or two you can be in the center of making an impact. I don’t feel like would I be able to have the opportunities that I have right now in any other city. This can be a city that really welcomes you in if you want to be a part of it, and I think that sets it apart.”  

    Diana is excited to use Full Circle to shift the perspective that young people have of St. Louis. She hopes to increase attraction and retention to the region and explained, “The reason we want people to stay is because it creates this new energy that excites everyone- people who have lived here all their life and also people who are new to the region. I think for Full Circle it is about being a part of that movement and seeing the shift in mentality from ‘Oh yeah.. St. Louis’ to ‘Wow, this is a city full of people who not only believe in the city, but are doing incredible things.’”

    Diana recently purchased her first home in St. Louis, and is excited to be setting down roots in the region. She explained, “I think in a lot of ways, this is the first place I’ve carved out a home for myself, and that feels really nice.” Diana has truly fallen in love with St. Louis, and she wants to help others discover that same feeling. She is extremely thankful for the hard work her parents put in when moving to the United States to provide her with these opportunities. “I’m truly able to go after this endeavor because of everything they gave me. I am thankful for them every day and hope they move here too.” Diana is excited for her future with Full Circle and hopes to help others feel at home in St. Louis