Grand Challenge Scholars Program

After high school, I headed east for college to the 300-student, 5-year-old Olin College of Engineering. It was in this innovative learning environment that I started to deeply question our K-12 education. After a couple years, I took a year off with a group of students and started an educational software business. We didn't get as far as we hoped, but I returned to school with a deep passion for both education and software development. In my final two years at Olin, I strengthened my engineering and design skills, especially those related to programming. I also deepened my passion to change teaching and learning in K-12 schools.

During my last three years of college, I helped to create Olin's version of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, or GCSP. The goal of this program at the national level is to encourage and support students as they seek deep experiences in college that will help them tackle the greatest problems our world confronts. Some of these grand challenges include providing access to clean water, managing the nitrogen cycle, making solar energy economical, and advancing personalized learning. In order to address these issues, future engineers will need more than technical skills. It will take highly interdisciplinary teams working together to make meaningful change in any of these areas. Thus, the GCSP requires students to complete a significant project in a grand challenge area, work on interdisciplinary teams, have a global experience, take action in an entrepreneurial manner, and learn through meaningful service work.

Since Olin already addresses many of these areas in the core curriculum, our team of founders, with wide input from the school community, decided to require GCSP candidates to create a portfolio that demonstrated the ways that the student met and exceeded the requirements of the program while building a passion to take on grand challenges after college. More specifically, the GCSP portfolio asks students to reflect on the major project experiences, interdisciplinary thought, entrepreneurial activities, global experiences, and service learning opportunities that have helped prepare them to take on the major challenges that face our world. The grand challenge I am excited about is changing how students learn and grow in school to become well-prepared and fulfilled adults. Now I am excited to join the many innovative educators, entrepreneurs, psychologists, parents, engineers, and community members who are already finding new models to address this need.

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