We know that our world is currently saturated with rapidly improving technology, yet we still face horrendous disparities that demand our attention. We live in a world where we have enough food to feed everyone, yet 1 in 9 go hungry every day, and 2.1 billion are obese or overweight; and a world where 900 children die every day from diarrheal diseases caused by unclean water. The issues facing our world today are not simple fixes. Food waste, chronic homelessness, the refugee crisis, and the mental health stigma will not be solved by one engineer, or one writer, or one politician. Being awesome at multivariable calculus simply isn’t enough. Georgia Tech’s motto is “Progress and Service.” Here at Grand Challenges we recognize that to most effectively create the progress our world needs, service is not an extracurricular activity, but a leadership style. By teaching students how to most effectively utilize servant leadership, Grand Challenges creates change makers who seek empathy and who have an unparalleled opportunity to change the world.
In the classroom, students begin their yearlong journey towards optimizing teamwork to tackle the world’s Grand Challenges through the W-Model - a broadening and specifying technique that they learn to depend on. With the larger goal of exploring and learning together, students learn how to work with people who are different from themselves, and they begin to develop the skills of highly effective teams. Specifically, they learn that effective teamwork results from three things: honest communication, an understanding of each team member's strengths and weaknesses, and frequent team evaluation. The second semester course creates the space for teams to develop a solution to the problems they chose to address. Grand Challenges teaches students the problem solving, analytical, and critical thinking skills to discover real world solutions and allows them to put in practice what they learn in the classroom by funding the implementation of their solution. Throughout the year, it becomes increasingly clear that Grand Challenges students are dedicated to improving the world.
The course work and leadership opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the community created by a group of like-minded students, looking to make their place in the world. It doesn’t take long for first year students in Grand Challenges to think of Howell as their home and their fellow GCers as their family. Any given week, Grand Challenges students may go en masse to see a show at the famous Fox Theater or visit the Georgia Aquarium or Stone Mountain. They work on service projects together, too – making blankets for children in shelters or snack packs at the local food pantry. Over Spring Break, students can apply to attend the GC Policy Tour and visit Washington D.C., meeting with policy makers and lobbyists to consider how grand challenges are addressed at the national level. The Grand Challenges Faculty Fellows have lunch and dinner with students, building relationships that play a vital role in student success. Grand Challenges students can always be found working together in the Howell study lounge, watching TV or playing the piano on the ground floor, or building something with the 3D printers. The camaraderie and friendships begin the day a student says “YES” to Grand Challenges!