Grand Challenges Teams

Dyson Grand Challenges bridges the classroom and the real world, giving students a chance to roll up their sleeves and tackle complex societal problems alongside Cornell faculty, staff, and MBA Coaches.

Working in teams on engaged-learning projects, students join forces with partners in Ithaca and beyond to apply their business skills. Grand Challenges builds on Dyson’s culture of collaboration and fosters knowledge in service to society, with projects that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Each Year in Grand Challenges

  • 900 students enrolled in a Grand Challenges course
  • 230+ students in project teams
  • 40-50 community-engaged projects
  • 15,000+ hours of project work

Student Spotlights

Praveen Gunedran headshot

At Dyson, our core focus has always been ‘Business for a Better World.’ The Grand Challenges project is a testament to Dyson's efforts to involve students in local community initiatives, giving an unparalleled opportunity to work with clients and create a lasting impact. Learning through experience is something I truly felt from this project and makes me certain I can take these skills into the workplace upon graduation.

Praveen Gunedran, Dyson ’24 (Treleaven Wines)
Arie Serrant headshot

This was an amazing learning experience in which I got the opportunity to make a tangible impact in an effort to improve the trajectory of a high-growth startup while cultivating essential teamwork skills. I also learned from reflecting on my own strengths and weaknesses through self-reflection, team reflection, MBA Coach meetings, and class meetings. I am grateful I got to experience this before working full time!

Arie Serrant, Dyson ’24 (Maia Yogurt)

Team Projects

Joseph Yoon and his Grand Challenges Project Team

Students work in teams on a range of subjects and final deliverables vary based on the needs of the client or community partner.

All projects meet the following criteria: working with a real client or partner on an issue with direct human impact in the community where the work takes place; well-defined scope and clear deliverables; integration with relevant topical course content; team-based work with a critical reflection component; and connection to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Projects are also guided by a Challenge Question, which is the starting point for teams to begin their research and inquiry. Challenge Questions are broad enough to spark discovery, but specific enough for a focused semester-long project.

Several recent projects are highlighted here.

Julian Galarza at a training session for Grand Challenges MBA Coaches

The MBA Coaching Program

In partnership with the Johnson Leadership Program, Johnson MBA students apply to join a cohort of Coaches and support Dyson Grand Challenges undergraduate project teams. Coaches meet regularly with their teams to provide guidance on interpersonal dynamics, problem-solving approaches, and effective client interactions. The Coaches also participate in trainings to deepen their own coaching and leadership skills.

Incorporating Johnson MBA Coaches into the Dyson Grand Challenge Program curriculum bridges the excellence and breadth of our schools, enables authentic mentoring relationships, and ultimately enhances the project results for the client or community partner.

Read more about the Grand Challenges Coaching Program.

Spring 2024 Coaching Cohort: Teresa Craugh, Michael Weaver, Cynthia Wang, Srinica Hampi, Sophie Kim, Chloe Matthea Ocampo, Francis Mulcahy, Julie Chhour, Marianthi Nika, Surbhi Inani

Fall 2023 Coaching Cohort: Sophie Kim, Chukwujindu Juwah, Ana Clara Fernandes Vieira, Ana Harris, Julian Galarza, Ce Wang, Cynthia Wang, Michael Horbowy, Monica Mercado, Ryan Neice

Johnson MBA students are invited to attend an information session and apply in October (for the Spring semester) and April (for the Fall semester).

Community-Engaged Learning and Critical Reflection

In Community-Engaged Learning courses like those embedded in the Grand Challenges Curriculum, students go beyond the classroom, seeing firsthand how theory and practice connect in the real world. Critical reflection is a reasoning process to make meaning of an experience. Using guiding questions, journaling, group discussion or other methods, students critically reflect on their experiences and what they’ve learned while considering next steps and possibilities for future action.

“Working on a project in the Grand Challenges Program was a transformative journey. It allowed me to discover the power of narratives in driving community engagement and social change. This project expanded my understanding of immigrant experiences and underscored the vital role effective communication plays in building bridges between diverse communities. It was more than a project; it was a lesson in empathy, communication, and the profound impact of collaborative initiatives.” – Jalil Sediqi

Dyson Grand Challenges projects are fast-paced and multi-faceted and often require students to adapt quickly to new kinds of knowledge and new styles of collaboration. These experiences can also be transformative, sparking new ideas, uncovering alternative perspectives, and causing students to rethink previous assumptions. Because this kind of learning can be both disorienting and enlightening, all students incorporate reflective practices into their Grand Challenges experience.

More information about how Dyson students and teams apply principles of Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) and critical reflection to their work is available from the the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement and the Johnson Engaged College Initiative.