Grand Challenge Scholars Program

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program is an innovative certificate program for UC San Diego undergraduate students. The program is designed to encourage students to focus their curricular and co-curricular experiences on addressing one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (Jacobs School of Engineering students may choose to focus on one or more of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges.)

Who Can Apply?

Any UC San Diego undergraduate student is eligible to apply. First- and second-year students are especially encouraged to apply, as they have the longest period of time with which to complete program requirements. However, transfer and more experienced students are also encouraged to apply and will likely be able to fulfill some requirements retroactively.

Applications for the new cohort of Grand Challenge Scholars may be submitted online by completing the Application Form and are due by Friday, January 31st, 2020.

What Are the Program Requirements?

Grand Challenge Scholars must complete requirements in seven areas. In some cases, Scholars may fulfill two requirements with one, substantial activity, with prior approval. Moreover, the same experience can be used to fulfill other campus requirements such as practica, technical electives, GEs, etc. Each scholar must take ENG 100D Design for Development and one quarter of ENG 100L Design for Development Lab to fulfill requirement #1. These may be taken concurrently.

Each of the other requirements is followed by at least one example of how it could be fulfilled, but there are many ways to satisfactorily fulfill requirements and creativity is encouraged. Scholars design their own programs and can do so without adding a lot of additional courses and lengthening their time to graduation!

What Are the Seven Areas?

  1. Project-based learning or research experience focused on one or more of the SDGs (or NAE Grand Challenges) (successfully completing the ENG 100D Design for Development course and at least one quarter of ENG 100L Design for Development Lab)
  2. Collaborative, interdisciplinary experience (e.g., serving on a project team, such as in Global TIES, or research team with students from other disciplines)
  3. Global context experience (e.g., project-related work, study or internship in another country, including Mexico)
  4. Social responsibility experience (e.g., successfully completing an Alternative Breaks trip or Blum Field Internship, or completing significant, supervised volunteer work)
  5. Innovation and entrepreneurial thinking experience (e.g., successfully completing one or more social entrepreneurship courses or competing in one or more social innovation challenges)
  6. Leadership experience (e.g., holding a significant leadership position in a student organization)
  7. Integrity and professionalism experience (e.g., successfully completing one or more ethics courses or equivalent experiences).

Grand Challenge Scholars also design and complete a Grand Challenge Commitment project (small team or individual) related to their SDG(s) or grand challenge and complete a Grand Challenge Capstone paper and presentation related to their project during their final quarters. These assignments are an opportunity for Scholars to demonstrate in detail his/her ideas for advancing progress on the selected SDG(s) or grand challenge(s). Moreover, Grand Challenge Scholars will have the opportunity to compile a Grand Challenge Scholar portfolio that demonstrates achievement in and thematic connectivity across the seven program elements. These requirements will be integrated into a special one-unit “Grand Challenge Scholars Seminar” (ENG 190 course approval pending) in which students will have the opportunity to reflect on their work, consolidate their learning, and plan for the future.

Each Global Changemaker Scholar will engage a Mentor who will provide support for the duration of the program and guide the completion of requirements. The Mentor must be a UC San Diego academic or research professional whose work aligns with the SDG(s) or grand challenge(s) selected as a focus by the student. The Mentor will meet quarterly with the student and will certify his/her successful completion of the program requirements, including the Grand Challenge Commitment project, the Grand Challenge Capstone paper and presentation, and the Grand Challenge Scholar Portfolio.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Being a Grand Challenge Scholar?

Grand Challenge Scholars will have multiple opportunities to develop and refine their professional skills, including UC San Diego’s twelve career readiness competencies. These are precisely the skills that employers and graduate schools are looking for in the students that they hope will create and lead positive social change in the 21 st century.

Grand Challenge Scholars will also enjoy exclusive access to certain programs and services, professional and faculty networking opportunities, as well as modest financial support for their project-related activities, including travel. Students who successfully complete the program will receive an official certificate that they can list on their résumé.

Use your education to change the world and apply today! For more information, contact