Competitive Scholars Program Addressing Grand Challenges of the 21st Century Available to Students

Sept. 30, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — A unique scholars program for University of Texas at Austin students from all years and disciplines is offering the chance to tackle the world's most pressing societal issues.

The Longhorn Grand Challenges Scholars Program (Longhorn GCSP) debuted this semester and is the first of its kind in Texas and among a handful of similar programs in the nation. Longhorn GCSP puts hope into action by combining expertise in engineering, business, law, policy and the humanities to address global challenges of the 21st century.

Students can apply for the program through Oct. 7.

Pictured left to right on the top row are: Dr. Christina White, director of Longhorn Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP); Dr. Richard Crawford, associate director of Longhorn GCSP and a mechanical engineering professor; Sheila Bustillos Reynolds, program coordinator. Left to right on the bottom row are students who helped develop curriculum for the program. The students are: Austin Talley, Ali Barton and Ward Christie.

Pictured left to right on the top row are: Dr. Christina White, director of Longhorn Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP); Dr. Richard Crawford, associate director of Longhorn GCSP and a mechanical engineering professor; Sheila Bustillos Reynolds, program coordinator. Left to right on the bottom row are students who helped develop curriculum for the program. The students are: Austin Talley, Ali Barton and Ward Christie. Not pictured: Mechanical Engineering Professor Kris Wood.

"The goal of this program is to develop student scholars who are open to having a rigorous and intense experience, but who also understand that this experience can potentially be life changing," said Dr. Christina White, director of Longhorn GCSP and the Design, Technology and Engineering for All Children program at the Cockrell School of Engineering. "Our university already has a wealth of resources for students and great infrastructure support is in place. This program helps us take that a step further, and it is designed to be complementary — not additive — to the academic journey our students are already on."

The program is housed in the Cockrell School of Engineering and gets its namesake from the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) list of Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. Published in 2008, the list identified 14 global challenges that must be solved in order to have a more healthy, prosperous and sustainable world. Nearly all of the challenges address complex social issues that require innovative technology and a systems approach to solve.

"The magnitude and complexity of the Grand Challenges require teams of engineers who collaborate to create solutions," said Gregory L. Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School. "By connecting engineering students with other disciplines, we will educate leaders who can take a collaborative and creative approach toward developing technology that solves the big problems."

Students selected for Longhorn GCSP will be required to fulfill five curricular and extracurricular components: service learning, global dimension, entrepreneurship, a project or independent research related to one of the Grand Challenges and completion of interdisciplinary curriculum.

"Students can choose the Grand Challenge that's most appealing to them and we will facilitate them in the design process, and how to take that idea from imagination all the way to inception and prototyping," White said.

Leaders in academia, industry and the community will also swap ideas with students and assess their projects each year during project presentations. These collaborations, along with others throughout the program, will provide students with entrepreneurship experience — so that they can better translate invention to innovation — a broadened global perspective, and a deeper motivation to apply their technical expertise to societal challenges. Students will also participate in a semester-long course, during which they can select a research topic and form design teams.

Students who complete the program will be embedded in an esteemed network of national government, academic, industry and community leaders.

The deadline for students to apply for the program is Oct. 7. For more information about the program and application materials, visit: gcsp.engr.utexas.edu.

About the Grand Challenges Scholars Program:

Longhorn GCSP is part of NAE's national Grand Challenge Scholars Program, which was created in 2009 after calls from three universities to develop an education model that better prepares engineers to be world changers. The founding universities are:

Duke University (Pratt School of Engineering), The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and University of Southern California (Viterbi School of Engineering.)

For more information, contact: Melissa Mixon.