Grand Challenge Scholars Program

Student smiling at the camera.

Grand Challenge Scholars Program

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) is a self-paced 1-3 year program ideal for the socially conscious and highly motivated engineering student who wants to have an impact on the world's most pressing issues. Whether you are interested in providing access to clean water or restoring urban infrastructure, this program provides you an experiential path to understanding and potentially providing solutions to the National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges. Nebraska's GCSP encourages students to tailor their learning experience beyond traditional coursework, preparing Scholars to enter the workforce equipped with the tools and skills necessary to have an impact on the issues our world faces today.

What are the Grand Challenges of Engineering?
These 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering set forth "goals for improving life on the planet."1 If any of these challenges call to you, we invite you to apply for the Grand Challenge Scholars Program to make an impact on our world.

Make solar energy economical
Provide energy from fusion
Develop methods for carbon sequestration
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water

Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Reverse engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Joy of Living
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

GCSP Components & Outcomes

Component Learning Outcome
1. Talent Scholars will conduct a research experience or project related to their Grand Challenge and present their findings.
2. Multidisciplinary Scholars will enhance their broad knowledge about their Grand Challenge through coursework or activities outside of engineering.
3. Viable Business/Entrepreneurship Scholars will practice communicating the value of engineering solutions.
4. Multicultural Scholars will demonstrate an awareness of the impact of their Grand Challenge through a social and multicultural lens.
5. Social Consciousness Scholars will engage in service learning to share and apply their knowledge and understand the impact of their Grand Challenge on communities.
- Portfolio and Grand Challenge Showcase Presentation outcome: Scholars will demonstrate these five components through a portfolio of their work and culminating presentation, scored on all 5 components.

 The program requires Scholars to complete a course, hands-on experience, or other relevant activity along with a reflection for each component (See "Curriculum" for complete details for each component). You get to choose how you want to complete each component within the guidelines and can even propose your own ideas.

Eligibility: Who Can Be a Grand Challenge Scholar?

  • All current students who are enrolled full-time in the College of Engineering who have at least one full academic year remaining may apply. (Typically Junior standing or lower; fourth-year students who will take a fifth year may also apply, for example). However, students are encouraged to apply as first-year students to provide more flexibility in completing the components.
  • Must be in good academic standing with the College of Engineering (2.5 GPA minimum). GPA will be considered in the application process.
  • Both Scott Campus and City Campus students are eligible.
  • Students who are applying for UCARE at UNL, FUSE at UNO, or NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at any school receive strong preference in the application process.

Program Benefits
Students admitted to the program will receive:

  • Ability and support to focus your engineering education on one of the Grand Challenges of Engineering, giving you the potential to have an impact on society and the world through this program recognized by the National Academy of Engineering
  • Access to submit proposals for a conference or education abroad scholarship fund to support your activity participation
  • Profile as a Grand Challenge Scholar on the UNL GCSP website
  • Support building skills that give you a competitive advantage for jobs, internships/co-ops, and graduate or professional school through building your capacity with the 5 GCSP components

Scholars who complete the program in full will receive:

  • Medal to wear at commencement
  • $2,000 Grand Challenge Scholars Achievement Award
  • Grand Challenge Scholars Program certificate from the College of Engineering
  • Grand Challenge Scholars Program designation on transcript
  • A letter of congratulations from the President of the National Academy of Engineering


Jen Skidmore
Director of Student Development