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“Imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting energy. Building this better world is humanity’s grandest challenge.”

— Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance
(textbook for UMBC’s GCSP Orientation Seminar)

UMBC’s Grand Challenge curriculum comprises two primary elements: the GCSP Seminars and the GCSP Qualifying Experiences. The GCSP Seminars build a community of scholars and provide a structured environment for the Scholars to work towards the program goals, and the GCSP Qualifying Experiences allow each student to build a personalized curriculum that reflects their interests.

GCSP Seminars. All students who have entered the Scholars program must complete three one-credit seminars, including:

  • GCSP Orientation Seminar (GCSP 301): Taken in the student’s first semester in the program, this seminar provides scholars with an introduction and foundation for the program, including the Grand Challenges themselves, ethical frameworks, completion of Responsible Conduct of Research training, and initial creation of a GCSP e-portfolio. The e-portfolio will include a program entry reflection about the student’s purpose in entering the program, along with the student’s personalized learning objectives. The seminar will also include diversity training and exploration of implicit bias issues, since knowledge in these areas is critical for effective teamwork. Students will identify a particular Grand Challenge and focus area.
  • GCSP Program Seminar (GCSP 302): Taken in the second semester of the scholar’s participation in the program, this seminar supports students in designing their pathway through the program by the selection and creation of their qualifying experiences. Students also share their experiences and insights with each other, while building their e-portfolios and reflecting on their experiences.
  • GCSP Leadership Seminar (GCSP 401): Taken during the scholar’s third or fourth program semester, this seminar provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences, share their learning and insights with new scholars, and engage in outreach to the broader UMBC and local communities.

GCSP Qualifying Experiences. Students must complete a validated experience each of the five program areas: research, interdisciplinarity, entrepreneurship, global perspectives, and service.

  • Validated experiences receive a gold, silver, or bronze level designation, based on the number of hours committed and the depth of the experience. A gold experience corresponds to approximately six or more credit hours of activity; a silver experience to about three credit hours; and a bronze experience to one credit hour.)
  • Each student’s program must include at least one gold experience and no more than two bronze experiences.
  • Students will create an e-portfolio that documents their qualifying experiences in each of the five program areas.
  • Specific existing activities and experiences will be pre-validated and have preassigned levels. Students may also petition to have other experiences validated. The initial set of preapproved qualifying experiences in each area is presented here.
  • All experiences require students to submit a mini-proposal and must contain a description of how their particular experience will relate to their selected Grand Challenge, satisfy the learning objectives for that program area, and meet the goals and requirements of the program, and a reflection about the experience in their e-portfolio.
  • No experience may be counted towards more than one category.

Assessment. We have identified a set of core learning objectives that all GCSP students are expected to achieve, as well as a broader set of optional learning objectives, from which each student will choose a group of personalized learning objectives for the overall program and in four of the five program areas.  This approach to learning objective design and assessment permits us to ensure that all Scholars have a common basis of knowledge, but that individual students can focus on those aspects of the program that matter the most to them personally. We also believe that presenting the broader set of learning objectives to all students, as part of the learning seminars, will encourage students to be more reflective about their engagement with the Grand Challenges.

The Program-Wide Learning Objectives presents core learning objectives that span all five program areas. Students are expected to explicitly tie their program experiences to these core objectives in the reflections they will prepare as part of their e-portfolios. Core learning objectives should be addressed in multiple program experiences, and will be emphasized in the three program seminars. In addition, as part of their reflection and personalization process, each student will identify personalized learning objectives from the broader set of learning objectives that is included on the Program-Wide Learning Objectives page.