Weather Forecast



ENGINEERING: Scholars program challenges, prepares students for careers

At North Dakota State University our engineering students are taught to think of solutions to the issues challenging society. Our mission as educators is to create the engineering leaders who will have a set of capabilities the industry needs for the future.

Some say we are at an important pivot point in the quality of life on the planet. The grand challenges — a series of societal problems identified by several national initiatives — focus on sustainability and the conditions that people will have to live with in the future. Our students have the opportunity to do something about those challenges.

Last summer, the NDSU College of Engineering joined the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Among the challenges identified in the program are making solar energy cost-competitive, engineering better medicines, providing access to clean water, ending extreme poverty and hunger, securing cyberspace and advancing personalized learning tools.

The good news is that our faculty and researchers are already tackling most of these challenges. More of our students will now join them in the lab and in the field. Twenty scholars per year are selected to become part of the program. They will be paired with a faculty mentor to conduct research, take some classes relevant to their grand challenge and be part of experiences that will mold and direct them toward leadership in solving the complex engineering issues facing society.

The program components are:

  • A research experience related to a grand challenge.
  • An interdisciplinary curriculum that prepares engineering students to work at the overlap with public policy, business, law, ethics, human behavior, risk, medicine and the sciences.
  • Entrepreneurship to prepare students to translate invention to innovation and to develop market ventures that scale to global solutions in the public interest.
  • A global dimension that develops the students’ global perspectives necessary to address challenges that are inherently global as well as to lead innovation in a global economy.
  • Service learning for developing and deepening students’ social consciousness and their motivation to bring their technical expertise to bear on societal problems.

In addition, our program will focus on developing the leadership skills in demand by employers. Research is a lifelong skill and having a global awareness is vitally important, but we also want to prepare students to be ready and capable to step into leadership roles. Moreover, the program stresses experiential learning rather than traditional classroom learning.

More than 9,000 of our engineering alumni live and work in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Our students are in demand, and employers ask us to prepare students to be well-rounded, professional engineers. They want employees who are uniquely qualified and motivated to address the most challenging problems we face.

The scholars program is a natural fit for our college’s mission to produce creative and innovative graduates and research to meet the changing needs of a global society.

Gary Smith

Dean and Professor

North Dakota State University College of Engineering