Program Overview

With its interdisciplinary approach to some of the major social, cultural, and political problems of our day, Grand Challenge Learning enables students to connect their general education studies to real-world topics of pressing concern. Each pathway will introduce undergraduates to the extraordinary resources of a research campus and land-grant institution like the University of Illinois.

The purpose of General Education requirements is to supplement undergraduate majors in specific fields or disciplines. Ranging across the arts, humanities, the sciences, social science, behavioral science, and quantitative reasoning, “Gen Ed” requirements ensure that every student attains core competence in an array of subjects while exploring a variety of intellectual, cultural, and philosophical perspectives.  As such, general education helps to build critical thinking, creativity, respect for difference, strong leadership, and informed citizenship.  Increasingly, however, students are drawn to modes of education that help them to connect their studies to concrete questions, problems, and experiences. Grand Challenge Learning provides this opportunity at the General Education level while introducing students to some of the University of Illinois’ most renowned teachers and researchers.

The Initiative Features 3 Grand Challenge Learning Pathways:
Health & Wellness
Inequality & Cultural Understanding
Sustainability, Energy, & Environment

Organized under the oversight of the Grand Challenge Learning Leadership Committee, each Grand Challenge pathway will feature four innovative course types:

Grand Challenge Experience Courses (100-level freshmen courses)
Critical Frameworks Modules (200-level courses)
Campus Courses: chosen from a campus-wide call and beginning in Spring 2017 
Integrative Experiences: beginning in Fall 2017

The component courses of each pathway are linked through a Student ePortfolio that helps students to collect, reflect on, and share the projects and achievements developed within each Grand Challenge course.

Students who complete a Grand Challenge Learning pathway will gain valuable knowledge about Health, Inequality, or Sustainability while meeting some of the Gen Ed requirements necessary for their degrees. But there is no requirement to complete any pathway: students who are curious are welcome to try out one or two courses or even move from one grand challenge theme to another. In doing so, they may cultivate interests that lead them to choose electives, discover an undergraduate minor, consider a second major, or contemplate a new career path. Students who want to earn recognition for completing a pathway will have the opportunity to do so through a final integrative experience.