Grand Challenges Scholars Program

The Grand Challenges—presented by the National Academy of Engineering—are an aspirational vision of what engineering needs to deliver in the 21st century. Its 14 corresponding goals are focused on “continuation of life on the planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy and joyful.”

The Grand Challenges Scholars Program is an engineering education supplement that broadens the reach of undergraduate study:

  • Preparing students to think in international terms
  • Developing the perspectives and skills needed to find solutions to real and urgent problems
  • Offering a clear view to future jobs that matter and the opportunities in engineering
Bridget LaSala, Civil Engineering

“The Grand Challenges Scholars Program allowed me to experience courses and activities outside of the engineering field, while working towards a common theme.”

Bridget LaSala '21, Civil Engineering

Ryan Ford ’22 ChE

"The Grand Challenges Scholars Program, along with the guidance of many mentors, has given me the focus, knowledge, and broad experience needed to concretely pursue an issue I have always had an interest in: access to clean water."

Ryan Ford '22, Chemical Engineering

Siobhan Merrill, Civil Engineering

“Pursuing the Grand Challenges Scholars Program helped to continuously remind me of my goals and aspirations, and allowed me to reflect on the impact my actions have on the communities I will be working in.”

Siobhan Merrill '21, Civil Engineering

The Grand Challenges

At Villanova University, the GCSP focuses on five challenges that build upon the College’s research expertise:

Required Competencies

The NAE requires that Grand Challenges Scholars demonstrate these five competencies, and the College of Engineering has identified options for fulfilling them:

  • One semester of undergraduate research, or
  • 45 hours of paid research under the direction of a faculty member, or
  • One semester of a capstone design project approved by the steering committee
  • Or other approved experience
  • Semester or summer study abroad, or
  • Summer abroad research or internship, or
  • Humanitarian Engineering Minor, or
  • Selected minors from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Or other approved experience

How it Works

  • Accepted students will have a faculty mentor from their department.
  • You will meet with your mentor at least once every semester, during academic advising, to ensure you are on track to fulfill the requirement.
  • Your plan of study will be a living document that will change over time; new opportunities will become available and you will gain feedback and advice from your mentor and the steering committee.
  • As you fulfill each competency, you will complete a one-page reflection describing how your selected activity fulfilled that component for your theme.
  • When you have completed the activities to fulfill all five competencies, you will write and upload a two-page reflection that relates what you learned about your theme by completing the program.
  • Students completing the GCSP will have this accomplishment noted in the College’s recognition ceremony program. In addition, these students will receive a stole to wear with their academic regalia, will receive a certificate acknowledging their accomplishment and a letter from the President of the National Academy of Engineers, and inclusion on the scholars list on the GCSP website.

Interested in becoming a Grand Challenges Scholar?

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. As part of the application process, you must state why you are interested in pursuing the GCSP and which grand challenge (of those five listed above) will form the unifying theme for your plan. Applications will be judged on your passion for exploring the selected theme, as well as your current GPA.


Apply Now

Questions? Contact Undergraduate Affairs.