George Fox University’s College of Engineering commits to national ‘Grand Challenges’ initiative

March 30th, 2015

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School joins with 121 other institutions nationwide to tackle most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century

NEWBERG, Ore. – George Fox University’s College of Engineering has joined more than 120 engineering schools in a national initiative committed to educating a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.

In a letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair on March 23, representatives from engineering schools all over the country announced their intention to establish special educational programs designed to prepare undergraduates to solve what the government has termed “Grand Challenges.”

These “Grand Challenges,” identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, providing access to clean water, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.

Each of the 122 signing schools has pledged to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who have been specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of educating more than 20,000 formally recognized “Grand Challenge Scholars” over the next decade.

“The vision of the College of Engineering is for our students to become world change agents – by creatively integrating the fundamentals of engineering and a robust liberal arts foundation, into their future careers in the engineering workforce, entrepreneurial activities, global and social enterprises, and applied research,” George Fox Dean of Engineering Bob Harder said. “For this reason, we are excited to embrace a systematic program which will empower our students to address these ‘Grand Challenges.’ Solving these challenges will require the best efforts of our faculty and students, integrating their knowledge, expertise and creativity, with a variety of other experts in global and social issues.”

Harder accompanied 60 other engineering deans to the White House and the National Academy of Engineering’s Keck Center on Tuesday, March 24, to share strategies and best practices for implementing the Grand Challenge Scholar Program.

More than a quarter of the nation’s engineering schools are now committed to establishing programs to educate engineers to take on the “Grand Challenges.” “Grand Challenge Engineers” will be trained through special programs at each institution that integrate five educational elements: (1) a hands-on research or design project connected to the Grand Challenges; (2) real-world, interdisciplinary experiential learning with clients and mentors; (3) entrepreneurship and innovation experience; (4) global and cross-cultural perspectives; and (5) service-learning.

“Our faculty and students are already addressing many of these challenges through the school’s curricular programs, research, Servant Engineering and Senior Design projects,” Harder said. “In fact, we’ve already introduced students to the ‘Grand Challenges’ during the 2014-15 academic year, through our freshman course sequence in Engineering Principles, as well as through our engineering student advisory board.”

Harder added that during the 2015-16 academic year the goal is to summon students to action by implementing the George Fox College of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program, in which each student scholar-apprentice will be guided by a faculty mentor to complete a research project, interdisciplinary curriculum, and an entrepreneurial, global and service learning experience that demonstrates intellectual and thematic connectivity to one of the NAE “Grand Challenges.”

The NAE-endorsed Grand Challenge Scholars Program was established in 2009 by Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, Olin College and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering in response to the NAE’s 14 “Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century.” There are currently 20 active GCSPs, and more than 160 NAE-designated “Grand Challenge Scholars” have graduated to date.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a first-tier regional university. More than 3,700 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, six seminary degrees, and 11 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Bob Harder
Dean, George Fox College of Engineering

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