GCSP 401


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).