Grand Challenges Scholars Program Coming To UTC

  • Tuesday, March 28, 2023
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be the newest institution participating in the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, an initiative supported by the National Academy of Engineering to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.
 
The Grand Challenges Scholars Program, implemented at fewer than 100 universities nationwide, is a curriculum-integrated, co-curricular and extracurricular program with five competencies designed to prepare the next generation of students to address society’s grand challenges.
Once accepted into the GCSP, each institution creates its own program for implementing the competencies.
 
The UTC GCSP will begin in the fall 2023 semester as a partnership between the College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Honors College—with participation from the other colleges on campus.
 
“This will be the first college- or department-specific honors program on campus beyond the Honors College,” said UTC Honors College Dean Linda Frost, “and I believe this is the first Grand Challenges anywhere that’s an actual collaboration between an Honors College and a College of Engineering.”
 
Dean Frost has been involved with bringing the GCSP initiative to UTC for several years, along with—among others—College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Daniel Pack, Guerry Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Daniel Loveless and UC Foundation Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cecelia Wigal.
 
“I love the Grand Challenges model and find it extremely interesting,” Dean Frost said. “You can tell that engineers put it together because it’s sustainable, and while it’s driven by engineering, it’s very interdisciplinary.”
 
One of the tenets of the new program is that it will enable students to make a visible impact on their world as part of their degree programs by providing research opportunities and support to UTC faculty whose research interests coincide with the Grand Challenges.
 
“If they can see the big picture they will make those connections,” Ms. Wigal said. “This Grand Challenges program allows them to build how they want that experience and what they want to learn. It helps them build that experience and become immersed in that learning.”
 
Each student gets to create their own path; for instance, a student on a mechanical engineering track might work with a faculty member in entrepreneurship—and get a minor in that field.
 
“If we think about the big problems humanity is facing, they’re not discipline-focused; they’re multidisciplinary,” Mr. Loveless said. “It’s all about collaboration. There’s not a department for sustainability. Certainly, we tackle those problems and have our disciplines in engineering.
 
“But this is, in my view, a way to create a connection for students to see how what they’re doing matters for the betterment of humanity. This program brings people together to help illustrate to students a path to connect what they’re learning and studying—and makes it something bigger.”
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