Message from GCSP co-founder Yannis Yortsos

Dear Grand Challenges Scholars Program Community,

We live in unprecedented times, facing the COVID-19 challenge, one with exponentially changing circumstances.

These are not the exponential changes brought in by technological advances, most of which benefit the world in a positive way. Rather, they are driven by the dynamics of the contagion, and affect all of us here and everywhere in the world, adversely.

Fortunately, we know how to combat this contagion. And while we follow the practice of social distancing, we are more than ever before socially connected, across the globe, through the marvel of the internet and its myriad technologies.


As we navigate these turbulent waters, we know that we have an extraordinary group of students, alumni and other constituencies, namely the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, which is ideally suited to help all of us, in engineering schools, universities and across all society, shape our response. How we react in today’s times of uncertainty and disruptive, exponential change will test our values, our commitment, and our resolve. The GCSP is here to lead. And its attributes and mindsets apply even more aptly today.

Consider: The ability to lead technologically and help address the challenge; the key role engineers can play in interdisciplinary, systems, action to combat the contagion; the mindset of re-invention and innovation, in these uncertain times; the understanding of human nature and cultures; and the commitment to positive and meaningful societal impact. These encompass a most comprehensive set of knowledge, skills and mindsets, which our GCSP students and alumni bring to lead, inspire and effect positive change.  
Today, when the entire world is undertaking this experiment of unprecedented extent and impact, we have an extraordinary opportunity to practice what we preach, by engaging promptly and deeply our GCSP in all our schools. On Sunday, March 22, 2020, a number of us (listed below) met virtually to brainstorm on ideas how to mobilize our GCSP Network. We agreed that a most important next step would be to reach out to all GCSPs for a call to action. We are asking you, therefore to do that today.

The overarching essence of that call is twofold: to ask our GCSPs to lead all our students across our engineering schools, and then across the entire universities; and to create a network of fast response, that will include our GCSP alumni, national agencies and the industry, with a goal to mitigate and possibly arrest the contagion. Please reach out to your GCSP with a similar message (you could also simply send this message if you so choose). Interested students can click here to join the conversation. We are also engaging the I-Corps Innovation Node Los Angeles to help with providing instruction, mentoring, and other support. And to broaden participation of historically underrepresented students, we welcome the outreach from national organizations, such as NSBE, SHPE, SWE, AISES, WEPAN, and NAMEPA. 

A crisis offers the opportunity to innovate and re-invent. And the GCSP can help inspire students, across all universities, and all our constituencies to work together in our mission to engineer a better world for all humanity, a goal that is more urgent than ever before. 

Be well and safe, and let us know how we can help.

Yannis C. Yortsos
Dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Co-founder, Grand Challenges Scholars Program

On behalf of all my colleagues listed below:
Andrea Armani, Faculty, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Randy Atkins, Communications Director, NAE
Jenna Carpenter, Dean, Campbell University
Rachel Figard, student, NC State School of Engineering
Rachael Lau, student, Duke University Pratt School of Engineering
Andrew Mang, Duke University Pratt School of Engineering, GCSP alumnus
Najm Meshkati, Faculty, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Andrea Micangeli, Faculty, University of Roma, Italy
Rick Miller, President, Olin College
Pippin Payne, student, NC State, PCAST subcommittee member
Thomas Santini, Royal Academy of Engineering Scholar
Julia Sircar, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Amy Trowbridge, Faculty, ASU Fulton School of Engineering
Shawn Wooten, ASU Fulton School of Engineering, GCSP alumnus
Hazal Yüksel, IEEE, Cornell University