Academics & Programs

Grand Challenges Scholars Program


The Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) at RIT was developed through collaboration of faculty in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts.  This multidisciplinary approach to the program’s design reflects the fact that addressing the Grand Challenges requires much more than a purely technical skillset.  RIT’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) is open to all RIT students and is highly flexible so that students can customize the program to match their interests. Each student entering the program will submit a proposal that identifies how he or she intends to achieve the following five core competencies.

1.    Research/Creativity – Mentored research or creative experience on a Grand Challenge-like topic
2.    Multicultural Understanding – Understanding of cultures, preferably through a multicultural/global experience, to ensure cultural acceptance of proposed solutions.
3.    Multidisciplinary – Understanding of multidisciplinary engineering system solutions, developed through engagement.
4.    Viable Business/Entrepreneurship – Understanding, preferably developed through experience, of the necessity of a viable business model for solution implementation.
5.    Social Consciousness – Understanding that solutions should serve primarily people and society, reflecting social consciousness.

Within each competency, students may select from activities categorized as having a low, medium, or high level of engagement.  These levels are determined by the faculty who are part of the GCSP steering committee.  To become a Grand Challenges Scholar, students must complete two low-level, one medium-level, and a minimum of two high-level activities spanning the five competencies.

For the global competency, as an example, an introductory course counts as a low-level activity, a collection of three globally-related courses counts as medium level activity, and a semester working or studying abroad counts as high-level activity.

Students can complete their high-level activities by fulfilling using their cooperative education and senior design experiences. Co-op assignments that significantly involve one of the fourteen Grand Challenges, as well as those that involve working abroad or in a start-up company, count as a high-level activity. Likewise, senior design projects that relate directly to a Grand Challenge may be used to fulfill a high-level activity. .

Students also may engage in undergraduate research or entrepreneurship experiences. For an undergraduate research experience, students can work with a faculty mentor whose research interests intersect with one of the Grand Challenges. For an entrepreneurship experience, students can take advantage of the programming offered by the Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship (please include link), including participation in Idea Lab, a weekend long event in which student teams develop and present innovative solutions to a customer problem. Every year, GCSP students will have an opportunity to publically present their work at Imagine RIT, an annual innovation festival held in April or May (

Students will be assigned a faculty mentor to advise them on their plan and progress toward becoming a Grand Challenges Scholar.  Students will maintain an electronic portfolio that documents their journeys as Grand Challenges Scholars, and graduates of the GCSP will be formally recognized as a Grand Challenges Scholar as part of graduation.

Students who are interested in learning more about the RIT Grand Challenge Scholars Program are encouraged to contact the GCSP coordinator, Sarah Brownell,, for more information.

For more details:

•    NAE Grand Challenges
•    NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program