Dyson Grand Challenges: Addressing Real-World Dilemmas, Pressing Global Issues, and Inequities

Four years. Four courses. Countless opportunities.

In the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management (AEM), we believe in doing business for the greater good. This ethos is epitomized by the immersive Grand Challenges Program. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else—and it’s one more reason Dyson graduates often stand out from their peers.

Students presenting at the Grand Challenges Pitch Competition

Community-Engaged and Globally Aware

The Grand Challenges Program is a hallmark of the Dyson academic experience. This multi-year program is embedded in the AEM curriculum and designed to reflect the School’s vision: “Our Business is a Better World.”

The program involves a sequence of courses—each building a foundation for the next—and culminates in a team-based capstone project centered on a pressing societal issue. Aligned with the priorities of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Grand Challenges coursework addresses topics such as hunger, climate action, sustainability, and equity.

Choosing Your Challenge: Course Options by Year

The Grand Challenges curriculum includes 10.5 credits of coursework. All Dyson students enroll in AEM 1101 in their first year and AEM 3000 in their junior year. Students choose from various options for their sophomore written expression course and senior project course. Please review the current Cornell course catalog for the most up-to-date offerings.

Grand Challenges Curriculum Timeline

Developing Smart and Sharp Skills through Applied Learning

Through Grand Challenges, Dyson students develop a robust set of “sharp skills” (e.g., statistical thinking and data analytics) and “smart skills” (e.g., communications and leadership) that make them uniquely qualified to tackle pressing challenges. The knowledge, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit fostered in Dyson turn ideas into actions that will impact the world for good.

Students seek course and project options aligned with their passions. Coursework is human-centered and compels students to think critically about “stakeholders beyond shareholders.”

Benefits of the Grand Challenges Program

The Grand Challenges Program gives Dyson students an unparalleled real-world, engaged-learning experience and a chance to make a meaningful difference in communities near and far. Grand Challenges projects may impact communities locally, regionally, domestically, and abroad. Through the Grand Challenges Program, students may collaborate with non-government organizations (NGOs), non-profits, large and small companies, and startups with innovative and novel approaches to global challenges.

Critical Skills

Develop critical skills in communication, self-awareness, teamwork, cultural humility, project management, customer discover, and leadership for societal impact.

Career Connections

Prepare to engage with small businesses and high-profile companies on human-centered projects that are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Community Engagement

Become more active in your community and build connections for future engagement. In the Grand Challenges Program, students find a culture of support at Cornell and beyond.

No matter what career path you choose, your Grand Challenges experience will help you succeed by becoming a socially responsible leader who uses business knowledge to address society’s most pressing challenges.

Grand Challenges News

MBA students coach Dyson undergrads consulting for business client

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Students hope to help NYS wine industry reuse bottles

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Low-income taxpayer clinic helps farmworkers access tax justice

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Students learn about financing affordable housing developments

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Dyson students tackle societal issues at competition

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Students donate handmade canoe to Haudenosaunee youth

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The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Inspired by the world’s largest global sustainability initiative—the United Nations Global Compact—the Dyson Grand Challenges Program connects its curriculum to real-world challenges.

Adopted by 193 countries in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of a shared vision to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030. The plan encompasses 17 goals, which cover issues from health and hunger to gender equality and energy—and our faculty has developed courses and projects directly related to many of them.


Meet the Grand Challenges Program Team

Academic Director Sarah Wolfolds

Sarah Wolfolds

Grand Challenges Academic Director

Headshot of Lisa Gerber

Lisa Gerber

Grand Challenges Program Manager

Headshot Ginny McCollom

Ginny McCollom

Grand Challenges Program Assistant