Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge Seminars

A highlight in the Dietrich College undergraduate experience

All first-year students are required to take a Grand Challenge Seminar, which focus on real, complex global problems like climate change, food insecurity or racism.

Seminars are co-taught by multiple faculty members who bring a multi-disciplinary lens to problem-solving. Faculty teams propose seminar topics and engage with students in critical thinking, communication and collaboration. The courses harness the intellectual power of humanists and social scientists from Dietrich College, in collaboration with engineers, roboticists, chemists and other experts from across the university.

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Goals of the Seminars

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Through the Grand Challenge Seminars, students will: 

  • Learn basic methods and approaches to problem solving with an emphasis on application in real world scenarios.
  • Learn argumentation techniques in a variety of disciplines through active reading and analytical practices.
  • Have the opportunity to practice and develop written and verbal communication skills.
  • Build community with their peers and faculty, benefiting from faculty-to-student ratios of 1:16.
  • Learn how to use collaborative practices through small group work either in person or with technological tools.
  • Develop enriching relationships with CMU’s campus, Pittsburgh and wider communities through field trips, events and engaging with guest speakers.

Learn more about the seminars offered this year

Core Faculty

Core faculty in the Grand Challenge Seminar Program include members of the National Academy of Sciences, Hastings Center Fellows, recipients of National Endowment for the Arts Grants, prize-winning scholars and teachers from across Dietrich College and the CMU community.

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Some of the Grand Challenge Faculty