The National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) was created to better prepare students to tackle the immense and immensely complex challenges of the twenty-first century. The program does this by providing education and experiences in five competency areas: talent, multidisciplinary, viable business/entrepreneurship, multicultural, and social consciousness. These competencies align well with education and experiences often acquired under the umbrella of the liberal arts. This alignment, along with the rising tide of evidence that integration of liberal arts with STEM is beneficial for students’ education, led representatives from four colleges - Olin College of Engineering (Olin), Lawrence Technological University (LTU), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - to undertake a collaborative project, supported with funding from the Teagle Foundation, to explore GCSP as a vehicle for integrating liberal arts with STEM education (primarily engineering) and addressing the NAE’s five competencies.
GCSP inherently engages students beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries and encourages students to see the limits of single-method approaches to technological problem solving. The program creates opportunities for engineering (and non-engineering) students from diverse fields to engage with the social and humanistic dimensions of the Grand Challenges. When additional emphasis is placed on deep integration of liberal arts with engineering disciplines, GCSP even more effectively roots students in paradigms, epistemologies, and methodologies that they would otherwise not encounter during an engineering undergraduate degree.