Get Involved Grand Challenges

The Grand Challenges

Bringing together the UW School of Education and community partners to identify and address critical problems in education, health and the arts.

Through this initiative we will unleash the power of our most promising research and programs to fulfill the Wisconsin idea here and around the world.

Interdisciplinary partnerships pave the way to fresh ideas


pushing the frontiers of knowledge


trying out new ideas and programs


making a real difference in the world of scholarship and practice

Get Involved
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How will the
Grand Challenges work?

The UW-Madison School of Education’s Grand Challenges is a grant program to support research and practice in education, health and creative expression.

We will spark interdisciplinary teams to engage in projects to make a profound difference in the world.

Teams can apply for Engage Grants (up to $25,000) or Transform Grants (up to $250,000)


Across Disciplines

  • Make connections. Share your ideas. Meet others with similar interests and new perspectives. Opt to build a team, or simply network.

  • To formally get involved in Grand Challenges, set up a meeting with The Network. At this consultation, you’ll share your ideas with The Network staff, who will help you decide what’s next.

  • Some possibilities include hosted lunches and dinners to continue discussing ideas and teambuilding, applying for startup funds of up to $1000, and attending meet-ups around topics of interest.


with the community

  • Teams may decide to apply for Engage grants of up to $25,000. Engage proposals are due August 1, 2017.

  • Engage teams will have the opportunity to work with artists to create a visual representation of their ideas to be shared at a poster fair in late August 2017.

  • Posters and proposals will be reviewed and Engage grants will be awarded at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year.


the world with your ideas

  • For projects that are larger in scale, teams may decide to apply for Transform grants of up to $250,000. Transform proposals are due December 15, 2017.

  • Transform teams will have the opportunity to work with videographers to create a visual representation of their work to be presented at a UW-Madison School of Education Gala event in early 2018, where local and national experts will form a panel of judges.

  • Presentations and proposals will be reviewed and Transform grants will be awarded in early 2018.

How Will The Grand Challenges Move Forward?

Who can participate in the Grand Challenges?

Each Grand Challenge team must include at least two UW-Madison School of Education Faculty or Staff from different departments. Teams will represent multiple academic disciplines, and may also include team members from across UW-Madison, other universities, and the wider community. Proposals that aim at community impact should include relevant community partners.

Each team will designate a primary investigator (PI) who will serve as the contact for the proposal. Faculty and staff members can serve on multiple Grand Challenge teams, but can only serve as the PI on one proposal. Only UW School of Education Faculty and Staff can serve as PIs on any proposal.

What are the criteria for a strong proposal?

Grand Challenge Projects are collaboratively written proposals that address three key concepts: Inquiry, Innovation and Impact.

Inquiry — What is your burning question? How will the work extend and apply what we know and can do in key areas of expression, education or health-related scholarship? How will it transform the field?

Innovation — How will the proposal break new ground? How will the work use interdisciplinarity to cross boundaries into new programmatic, conceptual or aesthetic areas?

Impact — What measurable and authentic difference will the work make in the lives of people in our community, our state, our country, or our world? How can this difference be measured? Why is this the right time to address this problem?

What is the difference between the Connect and Transform Competitions?

Because the Grand Challenges initiative intends to inspire all different types of projects with differing scope and magnitude, participants can choose to enter their project to compete for one of two levels of awards:

  1. Engage Grants — Multiple grants (6-8) in the amount of up to $25,000 will be awarded at the beginning of the 2017-18 Academic Year.
  2. Transform Grants — A smaller number of grants (2-3) of up to $250,000 will be featured and reviewed at an SOE Grand Challenges Gala with grants awarded in early 2018.

Who will coordinate the Grand Challenges?

The Grand Challenges will be coordinated by the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network (the Network) in partnership with leaders from across the School of Education. The Network’s role is to inspire faculty and staff to seek out the kinds of support they need to make a difference in the worlds of scholarship, creativity and everyday life.

How will all Grand Challenge Projects be supported?

Each Grand Challenge Project, regardless of the level of funding for which they choose to apply, will get a web page that highlights (revised, if necessary) posters, emphasizes key issues raised in the proposal, and provides links to relevant current and past work of the team members. This web-page, housed on the Grand Challenges site, will serve as the primary information source and point-of-contact for community members interested in knowing more about and supporting Grand Challenges projects.

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