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

Three years. Three courses. Countless engaged learning opportunities.

At the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management (AEM), we believe in doing business for the greater good; at the heart of this is the immersive, multi-year Grand Challenges Program. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else—and it’s one more reason Dyson graduates often stand out from their peers.

Headshot of Senior Lecturer Denise Ramzy stands in front of a chalkboard

What are Dyson Grand Challenges?

The Grand Challenges Program is a hallmark of the Dyson academic experience. This three-part, three-year program is embedded into the AEM curriculum and designed to reflect the school’s vision: “Our business is a better world.”

The 7.5-credit 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 address topics such as tackling poverty and hunger and promoting equity.

Benefits of the Grand Challenges Program

The Grand Challenges Program gives Dyson AEM majors an unparalleled real-world, engaging 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, project teaming, cultural humility, and leadership for societal impact.

Career Connections

Prepare to engage with small businesses and high-profile companies on projects that support UN sustainable development goals by 2030.

Community Engagement

Find empowerment and inspiration to become more active in your community during your time at Cornell and beyond.

No matter what career path you choose, your Grand Challenges experience will help you succeed by becoming socially responsible leaders who use business concepts to address society’s most pressing challenges; who are community-engaged, globally aware, and who strive for impact.

A piece of paper and a notebook sitting on a wooden table.

Dyson Degree Requirements: How to Complete Your Grand Challenges

Part of the overall Dyson graduation requirements, the Grand Challenges Program comprises several individual courses that begin in your sophomore year and culminate with a senior team project.

Grand Challenges: Courses, Outcomes, and Timeline

This sequential series of Dyson Grand Challenges courses were designed to build the skills and knowledge needed not only to complete your capstone project but also to thrive professionally in today’s socially minded marketplace and think critically as a globally minded citizen.

Year Course Learning Outcomes


Sophomore Year

Written Expression Course
Choose from a selection of written expression courses, all of which focus on contemporary global issues.
  • Clear writing
  • Ethical awareness
  • Evidence analysis
  • Critical thinking

Junior Year

Pre-Project Immersion Course
In this intensive, team-based course, you’ll develop collaboration and presentation skills.
  • Project teaming
  • Client presentation 
  • Critical reflection
  • Cultural humility

Senior Year

Grand Challenges Project Course
Work with your team, a faculty mentor, and client or community partner to tackle a real-world issue.
  • Client engagement
  • Project management
  • Lifelong learning
  • Societal impact

Choosing Your Challenge: Course Options by Year

The Grand Challenges curriculum involves 7.5 credits worth of coursework. To fulfill these specific Cornell Dyson requirements, you’ll choose from various options in the written expression and capstone project areas.


Connection to 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.


Want to Chat More about Grand Challenges?

If you want to learn more about the Grand Challenges Program—including course details or how it helps fulfill Dyson graduation requirements—contact our program manager, Lisa Gerber.

Contact Details
Email: dysongrandchallenges@cornell.edu

Ready to Change the World with the Grand Challenges Program?

The Grand Challenges Program is an opportunity exclusive to Dyson. If you are a high-achieving, socially conscious student interested in working on meaningful, real-world projects and a career in applied economics and management, we encourage you to apply to Dyson.