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GCSP 401 – Spring 2019 – Syllabus

Course Information



  • Dr. Maria Sanchez
  • Office Hours: By appointment

Graduate Teaching Assistant

  • Ms. Kiplyn Jones
  • Office Hours: By appointment


See Schedule here


Course Description

This seminar provides an opportunity for students completing the Grand Challenge Scholars Program to reflect on their experiences, share their learning and insights with new Scholars, and engage in outreach to the broader UMBC and local community. Students will work towards completion of their e-portfolios, mentor and help to train the entering cohort of Scholars, and present their experiences and knowledge they have learned in class and in public forums on and off campus. Restricted to students who have been admitted to the Grand Challenge Scholars Program.  This course is intended for students who have completed GCSP 301 and GCSP 302, but may in exceptional cases be taken concurrently with GCSP 302.


Overview of Course Structure

GCSP 401 is intentionally co-scheduled at the same time as GCSP 301 (fall) or GCSP 302 (spring). Students may take either offering of GCSP 401 (fall or spring). Students will engage in four primary GCSP-related activity groups throughout the semester: (1) completion and documentation of their program experiences, (2) peer mentoring of first-year students in the program (who are taking GCSP 301 or GCSP 302), (3) leadership training and development, and (4) service to the program in the form of program review and advocacy.


Completion and documentation of program experiences.  GCSP 401 students typically take the course in the fall or spring of their senior year. All students in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program are required to identify one of the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges and complete experiences related to their Grand Challenge in five program areas: research, interdisciplinarity, entrepreneurship, global perspectives, and service.    GCSP 401 students who are in their final semester before graduation must document the completion of all of their program experiences in an e-portfolio (which they will have started working on in GCSP 301 and 302).  Students who are taking the course before their final semester in the program must submit a partially completed e-portfolio, along with a detailed timeline of their planned completion.


Peer mentoring of first-year students. Co-scheduling GCSP 401 with GCSP 301 or GCSP 302 allows the second-program-year students in 401 to work closely with the first-program-year students as the latter students enter the program and begin to design and document their experiences.  GCSP 401 students will be placed into small groups, typically with 2 GCSP 401 students and 3-4 GCSP 301/302 students, depending on the particular ratio during that semester.  These groups will be formed with the goals of having common interests (shared or related Grand Challenge focus areas) and diverse perspectives (different majors, backgrounds, and demographic characteristics), but avoiding students from particular groups (gender, race, major) being isolated as an “only” in their group.  GCSP 401 students will serve as peer mentors within these groups, supporting the entering students throughout the semester on their program activities, providing a two-way learning experience.  While the entering students are learning about the program, starting to design their pathways, and developing their individual teamwork skills, the peer mentors are developing leadership skills, communication skills, and the ability to help others bridge differences.


During the GCSP 301 (fall) semester, the GCSP 401 students will support the GCSP 301 students in learning about the Grand Challenges and program areas, preparing an in-class presentation about an assigned Grand Challenge, preparing a first draft of their e-portfolios, and presenting those e-portfolios in class.  During the GCSP 302 (spring) semester, the peer mentors will support the 302 students in designing their program experiences, locating appropriate outside mentors, preparing their program experience proposals, creating their e-portfolios, and presenting their e-portfolios at the end of the semester.


Leadership Training and Development. Students in GCSP 401 will complete a series of assigned readings and discuss them in class to explore how the concepts they are learning apply to the Grand Challenges, their program experiences, and their longer-term career and educational goals.  During the 301 (fall) semester, the 401 students would work together to prepare and deliver the 301 class session on “Teamwork and Handling Conflicts.” During the 302 (spring) semester, the 401 students would work together to prepare and deliver the 302 class session on “Leadership Characteristics.”


Service to the Program. Students in GCSP 401 will collectively carry out a structured process of reviewing, assessing, and making suggestions for improvement of the overall GCSP program.  This process serves as a service learning opportunity within the program, and also helps them to develop entrepreneurial skills of marketing, needs assessment, and iterative “product” improvement.  There are two assignments that are used to assess this component: an initial Program Analysis, in which students will review the different aspects of the program and how effective they believe they have been in their own experience; and a Program Extension assignment, in which students identify and design a potential addition to the program (e.g., an additional option for a program experience; a new recruiting mechanism; or outreach materials for K-12 students).


Students’ grades will be based on the following weights:

Peer mentoring & reflections                       25%

Leadership presentation & reflections       25%

E-portfolio                                                     25%

Program review and improvement plan     25%



The expectations for each of these assignment areas are straightforward, as is appropriate for a one-credit seminar:


Peer Mentoring.  Students are expected to attend class daily (unless they have a documented medical or athletic excuse, or are attending an approved professional conference or other academic event), to work on their assignments, to contribute to class discussions, and to provide peer mentoring support and feedback.  Students will be graded on the appropriateness of their interactions with their assigned groups (75% of peer mentoring grade).  (A rubric will be developed for specific aspects of the collaborative work and peer mentoring.  In addition to a self-assessment by each student, input will be collected from the group members over the course assessment that may be used to adjust the grade. In all cases, students will be able to see a summary of their team member’s assessment, and can respond to any concerns that are raised during that process.)  The grade will be based on the quality and delivery of the presentation, and written reflections over the course of the semester about how the leadership skills they learn about may have been useful in practice during the class and in their outside activities.


Leadership Presentation & Reflections.  Students will read several assigned articles on leadership (samples are included in the Assigned Reading list), and will collectively prepare a presentation for GCSP 301 (“Teamwork and Handling Conflicts”) or GCSP 302 (“Leadership Characteristics”).  Students will also be asked to complete several short reflections on the teamwork in these groups; those reflections will count as 25% of the overall peer mentoring grade.


E-Portfolio. By the time they finish GCSP 302, all students should have completed at least two of the five program-area sections of the e-portfolio (basically a website describing their grand challenge, summarizing the program experiences, and discussing how those experiences allowed them to meet the learning objectives associated with the program (see end of document)).  GCSP 401 students in their final semester will be expected to complete the remainder of their e-portfolio, and to submit it for final approval as satisfying the program requirements.  GCSP 401 students in their next-to-last (or earlier) semester must document all completed experiences, and complete e-portfolio sections describing any planned not-yet-completed experiences.  The grade for the e-portfolio will be based on a “retake rubric”: students are expected to have a fully satisfactory completed e-portfolio by the end of class, so they may resubmit in order to address any weaknesses until they have received full credit (100%) for the e-portfolio.