NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) is a combined curricular, research, and extra-curricular program that is designed to prepare students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is part of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is the most prestigious body to which an engineer can be elected. The NAE operates under the same congressional act of incorporation that established the National Academy of Sciences, signed in 1863 by President Lincoln. Under this charter the NAE is directed "whenever called upon by any department or agency of the government, to investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art." The NAE has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign members, senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world's most accomplished engineers. Individuals cannot apply or self-nominate but are nominated, reference-supported, and elected by their peers.

In 2008, the NAE identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. The Grand Challenges are a call to action and serve as a focal point for society's attention to opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life. These are very broad world-wide issues for engineers to address.

Drexel has been one of the early participants in the NAE GCSP. When a GCSP student completes the program requirements and graduates s/he will receive a certificate of completion signed by both the NAE and the responsible Drexel University official. This can be a significant enhancement to the Scholar's credentials.

Program Components

Each student will have a custom plan of study which meets the requirements of the GCSP. The plan of study pertaining to the GCSP will be reviewed and approved by the GCSP Director. A GC Scholar must maintain a 3.0 GPA. None of the curricular requirements identified below are engineering discipline specific. Slight modifications may be permissible if they meet the program objectives.

Project or research activity

Each Scholar will engage in some research that can be identified with one of the very broadly identified NAE Grand Challenges with a research mentor. The mentorship and research issues will be discussed at the student selection interviews.

Service-learning and development of social consciousness

Each student will complete service with a community/non-profit organization. The Scholar will be required to submit a written report on their activity and accomplishments to both themselves and the civic organization which they served. Examples might be EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service), EWB (Engineering Without Borders), some appropriate freshman or senior design projects, and others as suggested.


Please note: In each of the coursework areas below, a student has the option of choosing an alternate course, provided it is approved by the program director and satisfies NAE requirements.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Experience

GCSP Scholars will take at least two of the following courses offered by the College of Business, the Close School of Entrepreneurship, or the Entrepreneurial Center.

  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship (MGMT 260)
  • Business Plan for Entrepreneurs (MGMT 365)
  • Leading Start-Ups (ENTP 210)
  • Launch It!: Early Stage (ENTP 440)

The GCSP Scholar may substitute or add courses from the Close School of Entrepreneurship's minors in Energy Innovations, Health Innovations, & Social Entrepreneurship with approval of the GCSP Director.

The Grand Challenge Scholar will be asked to take at least one course from each of the following four categories. These courses are, for the most part, within the current list of COE general education courses. Thus, with careful planning and/or the use of free electives, almost no additional courses would be required. With approval of the program director, substitutions will be possible.

Global and Cross-cultural Perspectives

  • Global Entrepreneurship (ENTP 370)
  • Introduction to Global Engineering (ENGR 280)

International Business

  • International Business (INTB 200)
  • Criminal Law (BLAW 342)

Political Science/History

  • Intro to Comparative Political Analysis (PSCI 140)
  • Ethics and International Relations (PSCI 352)
  • The European Union in World Politics (PSCI 357)

Culture and Communications

  • Culture and Values (GST 359)
  • International Communication (COM 360)
  • Women and Society in a Global Context (WGST 240)

Student Selection

Students have the opportunity to join the program anytime beginning in the third quarter of their freshman year but not later than the end of their third year in order to have sufficient time to complete the program requirements. Candidates must have a GPA of at least 3.25 at the time of application and maintain a GPA of 3.0 during the program. The application includes an essay on why the student wishes to be a part of the program. Students will complete a proposed plan of study that satisfies the requirements of the GCSP.

To start the process of consideration for the program, please contact the Academic Advisor for more information and application.


For help with academic planning or with questions about the program, please contact the following advisor(s):

Program Director

Professor James Mitchell
Office: University Crossings 155
Phone: 215-895-2211

Academic Advisor

Emily Bogunovich
Office: University Crossings 155
Phone: 215-895-2211