Global Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Richard was one of the three co-founders of this GCSP program in 2009, and has been involved on the leadership of the program ever since.

Recognized by the National Academy of Engineering, the Global Grand Challenges Scholars Program has grown to include nearly 100 universities globally, and was endorsed in 2015 by President Obama when 122 U.S. engineering deans signed a pledge in the White House to create GCSP programs on their campuses. The program is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers to address the most critical challenges of our planet.

From urban centers to remote corners of Earth, the depths of the oceans to space, humanity has always sought to transcend barriers, overcome challenges, and create opportunities that improve life in our part of the universe. In the last century alone, many GREAT ENGINEERING ACHIEVEMENTS became so commonplace that we now take them mostly for granted. Through technology we have come to expect an abundant supply of food and safe drinking water for much of the world. We rely on electricity for many of our daily activities. We can travel the globe with relative ease, and bring goods and services wherever they are needed. Growing computer and communications technologies are opening up vast stores of knowledge and entertainment. As remarkable as these engineering achievements are, certainly just as many more great challenges and opportunities remain to be realized. While some seem clear, many others are indistinct and many more surely lie beyond most of our imaginations.



With input from people around the world, an international group of leading technological thinkers were asked to identify the Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. The committee suggested these Grand Challenges fall into four cross-cutting themes: SUSTAINABILITY (climate change), HEALTH (pandemics), SECURITY (cybersecurity and AI), and ENRICHING LIFE (diversity, equity and social justice).

The GCSP program is not a curriculum. It is a set of broad goals for developing the motivation and skills to lead in the pursuit of global challenges. These include five elements: (1) research in an area of Grand Challenge; (2) interdisciplinary study; (3) entrepreneurial experience; (4) global perspective; and (5) service learning and cultural awareness. These extracurricular elements are addressed differently on each campus as determined by the dean and faculty.

The GCSP has proven disproportionately attractive for women and under-represented minority engineering students. It has produced an exceptional community of alumni that are in great demand and ready to devote their career to a cause greater than personal profit.

From left to right: Yannis Yortsos, Richard Miller, Jenna Carpenter, and Thomas Katsouleas. 

Update 2022

The National Academy of Engineering awarded the 2022 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education to four people: Jenna Carpenter, Thomas Katsouleas, Yannis Yortsos, and Richard Miller for our work with the Grand Challenges Scholars Program. 

Please see this link with more information about the award and prize (and see the video above that explains the organization).