The Schmid College Grand Challenges Initiative is a student-driven program that develops learners who strive to explore, make connections, seek answers, and solve big problems. Launching in the fall 2017 semester, we will immerse students in small (~5 person) teams composed of individuals from different disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives. Working together from day one, our students will seek answers to massive questions in health, sustainability, technology, the environment and education – issues that touch all aspects of our lives. That team-based pursuit extends until the end of their second year, with the potential for it to extend through the entirety of their Chapman experience.

With more than 200 students coalesced into nearly 50 teams projected to take part in the program’s first year, we are excited to witness what is sure to be a remarkable whirlwind of activity as the teams work together with faculty on their grand challenges. The thing that is both wonderful and frustrating about these challenges, however, is that no easy solutions exist. Large teams of really smart people from around the globe are already working on these issues without yet producing ideal solutions. Furthermore, these are not challenges with purely scientific or technological solutions – they all intersect with society, politics, economics, philosophy, and more – intersections that make the challenges truly grand.

Beyond the Academic Environment

Inevitably, the teams will discover that discussing journal articles, meeting with professors, combing the internet, reading government reports, and watching TED videos are not sufficient when trying to identify new solutions. It takes a different perspective – one that comes from individuals who can offer insight from beyond the academic environment – to provide the most sophisticated view of why these challenges exist and how they might be tackled. To that end, the Grand Challenges Initiative will engage a broad range of subject matter experts from beyond our campus’ borders, who can provide that different perspective to our students: The Grand Challenge Advisors.

Grand Challenges Advisors

This incredibly broad group of Advisors is currently composed of people working on water management, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, construction engineering, sustainability, pediatric healthcare, wetlands protection and reclamation, data analytics, medical lasers, information technology and security, semiconductor physics, and food science. Because of this group’s remarkable set of experiences, we expect that even small contributions will make large differences in how the teams progress.

Answering the occasional email or perhaps spending 15 minutes on the phone or Skype with a team might re-direct them down a previously unexplored path, or help them to realize that an elegant yet esoteric solution might be critically flawed from a business or scalability perspective. Advisors will also have the opportunity to meet and network with all students and faculty involved in the program at our regular GCI Networking Breakfasts, where Advisors might also serve as panelists or keynote speakers, delving deeper into how their expertise is relevant in solving society’s grandest challenges. Simultaneously, the Advisors are helping our students build their very first professional network, which will make them that much more enabled to seek internships and employment as they navigate their career.

Be Part of the Solution

If this sounds intriguing, I encourage you to learn more at www.chapman.edu/GCI – or just drop me a line at lyon@chapman.edu . The Grand Challenges Initiative is, we believe, a revolutionary approach to science learning that breeds driven students who are empowered to take ownership of their education. We would love for you to be a part of that experience.