Student Experience: The Grand Challenges Framework

Empowering undergraduates to practice community engagement, tackle real-world business challenges.

By: Stephen D'Angelo
grand challenges students in front of Willard Hall

The Grand Challenges program at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management is a way for undergraduates to engage in complex—and concrete—community challenges on a local and global scale. The curriculum further differentiates Dyson’s Applied Economics and Management (AEM) business program, helping students develop critical skills in self-awareness, project teaming, and leadership for societal impact in a real-world setting.

In AEM 3600, Impact Learning: Field Study Prep Experience, students are introduced to South African entrepreneurial small business partners with whom they work with prior to and during the study trip to tackle business challenges. In addition, students learned about the concept of human centered consulting which will better enable them to be more effective and impactful consultants. Most recently due to COVID, the program partnerships took place online through virtual consultations.

“This course enables students to use what they have learned in a real-world business,” says Steven Kyle, associate professor of applied economics and policy. “Though the businesses we work with are small they have the same basic issues that any other business has: production, marketing, finance, etc.”

“This is just as true in South Africa as it is in the USA,” he continued. “Seeing these issues through the eyes of a real-world entrepreneur is invaluable to our students.”

This has a lasting impact on students for the rest of their undergraduate years and beyond, Kyle says.

“Experiencing a foreign country is not something most of our students have done at all. Even when they have, it is usually another rich industrialized country. Working in a place that is foreign both culturally and in terms of its level of development is an experience that will stay with them forever.”

The Farmers Choice team

A project team made up of Catherine Kopp ’23, Angelique Peregrina ’23, Juan Jose Piedrahita ’23, and Jing Wen Soh ’23 reflected on their time in the program, detailing their project, initial attraction to the program, what they enjoyed most about it, and key takeaways.

Grand Challenges Student Experience