New Programs Designed to Grow Global Leaders

Georgia Tech routinely produces leaders in a variety of fields, and the Institute is building on its success with additional options for students who want to learn how to lead.

Grand Challenges LLC
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The Grand Challenges Living Learning Community will encourage interaction between students and faculty in casual, spontaneous settings outside the classroom.

Specifically, the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program within the Division of Student Affairs has helped create new opportunities in Tech’s residential, academic and extracurricular environments.

For its newest initiative, LEAD is working with admissions, faculty, residence life and academic affairs to invite select incoming freshmen to join the first Grand Challenges Living Learning Community: a group of students who will populate the entirety of Howell Hall to focus on the global “grand challenges” of food, energy, water and health over the course of an academic year.

“We’re going across all colleges for candidates — it takes a multidisciplinary perspective to address these challenges,” said LEAD Director Wes Wynens. Students will take related courses in the fall and spring, with faculty from disparate disciplines advising teams throughout the year in preparing for a culminating project in the spring. Robert Butera, a professor jointly appointed in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, will serve as faculty director for the program.

“I’m sold on the approach of getting kids together from a variety of backgrounds where they’re learning how to learn, working in teams and tackling unresolved questions,” Butera said. Using that model is part of what drew Butera to Grand Challenges, but was complemented by his desire to support Tech’s continued pursuit of enhancing student and faculty interaction.  

“I’ve always felt strongly that there is a serious level of need at Georgia Tech to improve engagement between students and faculty,” said Butera, who earned his undergraduate degree from the Institute. Seeing the residential college system modeled while a graduate student at Rice University led to his involvement — first with the ThinkBig housing communities and now with Grand Challenges. Butera has recruited faculty associates from other colleges to participate in the program, who will have lunch with residents on a regular basis and work with them on Grand Challenges projects.

“If you really want to improve interactions between students and faculty, you actually have to create an environment where informal, spontaneous activity happens,” he said.

In the classroom, students seeking the new minor in leadership studies opt to take 15 credit hours of topic-related coursework. The first cohort of 25 students began completing the minor last fall.

“The minor is designed to complement a variety of Georgia Tech degree programs and will give students practical, real-world experience in leadership and leadership development,” Wynens said. The minor will be expanded next academic year to include more courses, as well as a new track that combines public policy and international leadership.

A third student opportunity will be through a Leadership Academy, where participants will develop skills in seven core competencies during their time at Tech. With this option, students will express competency in these areas through various campus activities to demonstrate their leadership skills, being intentional about improving leadership ability.

“We want to meet students where they are in leadership development,” Wynens said. “Student organizations, community outreach and service are great places to do that.” A small group of upperclassmen will serve as leaders among leaders in the role of Leadership Fellows.

Students can learn more about these various options for growth at In addition to enhancing student-faculty interaction, preparing students for global leadership is one of Tech’s institutional initiatives in its 25-year strategic plan.