Motivated by the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering and increasing calls for a new engineering education paradigm, Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering proposed a new education model to prepare engineers to be world changers. The program was endorsed by the National Academy of Engineering in February 2009.
The Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) has now been implemented at more than 40 engineering schools around the world. In a 2015 letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama, 122 engineering schools announced their plans to join this initiative aimed at educating a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.
The GCSP is a combined curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular program with five competencies that are designed to prepare the next generation of students for addressing the grand challenges facing society in this century. Each institution creates their own specific realization of how the competencies are implemented, which are approved by the GCSP steering committee.
1. Research/creative: Mentored research or project experience related to a Grand Challenge to enhance technical competence
2. Multidisciplinary: Understanding gained through experience of the multidisciplinary character of implementable and viable Grand Challenge solutions
3. Business/entrepreneurship: Understanding gained through experience that viable business models are necessary for successful implementation of Grand Challenge solutions
4. Multicultural: Understanding gained through experience that serious consideration of cultural issues is mandatory for all viable Grand Challenge solutions
5. Social consciousness: Deepen social consciousness and motivation to address societal problems, often gained through service learning, because serving people is the vision served by the Grand Challenges
The GCSP is very unique in that it is an outcomes-based program that gives wide flexibility to institutions on the best ways of offering appropriate and relevant experiences to students. It has the structure of a movement more than a project, where inspiration is driven by the power of the idea and execution is made within the local ecosystem. In order for this movement to take root and thrive, it has to be a global and engage a truly diverse group of students.
It is hoped the GCSP will be replicated at many outstanding engineering programs around the world to yield several thousand graduates per year uniquely prepared and motivated to address the most challenging problems facing our world. A goal is for the program to pilot innovative educational approaches that will eventually become the mainstream educational paradigm for all engineering students.