The University confronts Grand Challenges with a can-do spirit.

The University confronts Grand Challenges with a can-do spirit.

It is our passion, and it is so neat that the University has enabled us to work on it.

A Community Table

Participants talked challenges and issues at 73 registered tables at various Denver locations.

Scholars Grants

DU Grand Challenges funded six scholars grants for a total of $28,733.

Grand Challenges Forums

189 DU faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members attended five DU Grand Challenges Forums—covering everything from environmental sustainability to violence—throughout FY 2018. Participants talked challenges and issues at 73 registered tables at various Denver locations.

Class Grants

DU Grand Challenges funded two $500 class grants in sociology and social work.

WHEN SOCIETY’S CHALLENGES get tough, the University of Denver mobilizes for action.

In 2016-17, DU began defining and developing a Grand Challenges initiative to take on big and growing problems. By fall 2017, the working group spearheading the effort had developed a three-arc plan for harnessing the University’s intellectual resources and can-do spirit.

Here’s how it works: To start, DU identifies a handful of persistent problems that correspond to institutional expertise.

That done, a single theme is adopted during each of the coming years and addressed over three years and three arcs. Year one, the aspiration phase, involves identifying goals and different approaches to problem solving. Year two sees ideas translated into action, while year three involves demonstrating and assessing achievements. And just as the first issue enters its second year, a second issue begins its aspiration phase.

The first theme selected was “thriving communities,” and its aspiration phase included a “community table” event in which hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and even representatives from the mayor’s and governor’s offices came together in various locations—on campus, at a gathering space in downtown Denver, in a café across town—to talk about improving daily life in communities.

Their ideas were forwarded to the University’s working group on the public good, one of several such groups created to guide implementation of DU IMPACT 2025. The group spent summer 2018 reviewing proposals and identifying a handful of projects to receive $1,000 grants.

The Grand Challenges initiative also funded six grants allowing individual faculty members to collaborate with a community partner on what Anne DePrince, director of the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning, described as experimental seed projects.

“The grant allowed for innovation, for a playfulness,” she explained. “What we’re really building here is the infrastructure and practice and knowledge to do high-quality community-engaged work that’s responsive, that’s collaborative with communities.”

That’s all in service to an even larger goal: “to prepare students to be part of solving big problems.”