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Alumni Magazine

College looks to expand Grand Challenges Scholars program

Olgha Qaqish

The College of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars program is growing — and a new position will help to manage and expand it.

On June 7, Olgha Qaqish, a lecturer, researcher and advisor for the College, became the coordinator of the Grand Challenges Scholars program, a position created by the College’s Academic Affairs unit.

Started in 2008, the Grand Challenges Scholars program is designed to inspire engineering students to address one of 14 challenges designated by the National Academy of Engineering that need to be solved to improve and maintain quality of life. The approximately 80 students now enrolled start the program in their sophomore year, taking classes and working with a faculty member to complete activities that prepare them to solve these challenges.

David Parish, assistant dean of academic affairs for the College, said he saw Qaqish as the best choice for the position, recognizing her as an excellent instructor.

“Her knowledge with research and her ability to work with students will enhance this side of the program,” said Parish. “While the program itself lets students be autonomous, she is good at getting groups to work together for a common goal.”

David Parish stands at front of classroom teaching a room full of students.
Students learn about the 14 grand challenges in E102: Engineering in the 21st Century in a section taught by David Parish.

As the program’s coordinator, Qaqish will manage program processes and logistics. This includes overseeing recruitment, application management and program execution, while also serving as a mentor and a liaison between students and faculty members.

Qaqish believes that her background as an engineering lecturer, curriculum developer and academic advisor will enable her to ensure the program’s overall success while inspiring individual student success.

“The program is important as it enriches the student experience with hands-on application of engineering world problems,” said Qaqish.

As an NC State alumna and staff member since 2005, Qaqish is excited to give more back to the Wolfpack.

“To me, it’s a fun and exciting job that you want to wake up in the morning for,” said Qaqish. “I have felt such a strong sense of community to be a part of the faculty and staff after having been a student here. Now I feel like I am able to give back to my mentors while also inspiring students to get them ready and excited to be a part of the Pack.”

Going forward, while Qaqish is getting used to her new role, she hopes to expand the program to get more students involved and to implement further collaboration in the program both internally and externally.

“With my experience in grant writing, I’m working with funding agencies to see how we could possibly supplement and expand the program so that graduate students and even alumni could participate in the program, not just undergraduates,” said Qaqish. “We’re also looking to expand the program’s partnerships to include other units at NC State and businesses and industries throughout North Carolina.”