A new generation of problem solvers

We are increasingly facing crises on a global scale, from COVID-19 to mass forced migration, regional conflicts and environmental disasters. These events have a large-scale impact on sustaining life on our planet, on our economy, education, health, and political stability, and are incredibly challenging to solve.

Governments and large global organizations typically don’t immediately turn to engineers and innovators for solutions, much less college students. We want to change that. We believe engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship play a critical role in solving many of the challenges brought about by these global crises. As does education.

In response, in the fall of 2018, USC Viterbi School of Engineering launched a multidisciplinary program in global challenges innovation. It is modeled after the National Academy of Engineering’s Global Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP), co-created by USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos. We bring together students, faculty, and stakeholders through a collaborative effort that leverages the power of engineering innovation, design, entrepreneurship, systems thinking, ethics and storytelling to innovate real-world solutions, implementing them in real-world settings to aid people and communities affected by global crises.

The creation of this academic program / incubator was driven by the fact that there can be no single solution to these crises, no single discipline or organization that can solve them alone, and that the next generation must be equipped to take these head on.

We take time-tested principles in systems thinking + innovation + entrepreneurship + user-centered design + storytelling and apply them to global challenges.

The course teaches students of all academic backgrounds how to lead the design of products, services, and technologies with a human-centered approach, while building a deeper understanding of and working together with affected communities.

It is geared towards highly motivated students who want to create new solutions or improve existing ones, students who welcome learning from failure and those who care about cultural, economic, technological, socio-political, and geographic nuances.

Watch the trailer for the Emmy-award winning film that follows the journey of our first cohort

From 2018 – 2020, we focused on the global refugee crisis. From 2020 – 2021, the global pandemic, especially the problems faced by our own communities. In 2021 – 2022, we addressed sustainability challenges in Alaska’s remotest regions. Our next challenge for 2022 – 2023 is the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its regional / global ramifications.

We’ve built the course on the principles of “Create, Collaborate, Innovate,” the Design Thinking approach of “Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver,” and the lean startup methodology of “Build, Measure, Learn.”

Our motto is Lives, Not Grades!

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