Grandey First-Year Honors Experience: Leadership by Design

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Grow in your capabilities to approach grand challenges through leadership, communication, and design by being a part of the Grandey First-Year Honors Experience: Leadership by Design! Some of the best humanities, engineering, and design faculty will be your guides as you complete interdisciplinary projects, learn how to design for people, cultivate innovative mindsets, find your own way to lead, build communication abilities, develop professional skills, and think creatively.  Also enjoy access to exclusive professional development through leader showcases, workshops, and guest speakers.  Expand the sections below to learn more about the program, the application, and the Leadership by Design class.

Application Details

The First-Year Honors application for 2023-24 will open soon for all students who have been admitted to Mines! Keep an eye on your email (and this spot) for a link to our application. In the meantime, explore our website to learn more about Grandey First-Year Honors, and be sure to check out our sister program too – Thorson First-Year Honors. 
Leadership by Design is open for all incoming freshmen to apply to.  In this competitive application process, we try to identify the incoming students that are best-suited for this signature learning experience – those that possess intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn through open-ended, self-directed assignments and projects. On top of that, we try to identify those students that are comfortable with the ambiguity inherent in the grand challenges of this fast-changing, multicultural, and globalized earth and are willing to stretch the way they think about the world.

Our Curriculum - Leadership by Design

The curricular component of the Grandey First-Year Honors Experience is a 2-semester interdisciplinary course sequence called Leadership by Design.  This course sequence fulfills core curriculum requirements for all majors by replacing two required core courses (HASS 100 Nature and Human Values and EDNS 151 Cornerstone Design I). 

In Leadership by Design, students: 

  • Learn about leadership theories, study inspirational leaders, and develop their personal approach to leadership 
  • Practice design processes, cultivate communication skills, improve collaboration skills, and learn methods to manage time and projects. 
  • Make connections as they use systems-minded thinking, research, and engage with people. 
  • Build design and “making” abilities through experimenting, building, and engineering 
  • Think creatively as they define problems, pose solutions, and communicate ideas. 
  • Seek to better understand themselves, others, and society as they analyze values, bias, ethics, and the implications of design choices.

To learn more, explore our abridged syllabus

Co-Curricular Components

Learning extends beyond the classroom through experiences such as local field trips, community events and socials, and leadership workshops.  Students also have the option to live in the Honors Explore Signature Learning Community. Being part of the Grandey community and taking part in these experiences will help students create some lasting friendships that students develop over the course of their first year at Mines.

Is First Year Honors For Me?

Honors at Mines means interdisciplinary explorations that bring a broader and deeper perspective to your STEM education. Honors does not mean more homework, faster pacing, or advanced levels of a single discipline. 
Students who thrive in Grandey First-Year Honors are those who are looking for a way to bring more depth and breadth to their STEM interests.  If you are looking for a way to combine design, communication, ethics, and leadership together as you learn, are excited about taking creative approaches to assignments, and want to learn how to lead yourself and others better, Grandey might be right for you. 
In the Grandey Leadership by Design course, you will read and discuss essays, fiction, and articles; practice visual communication through sketching, technical sketching, and CAD; define problems, pose solutions, build prototypes, and communicate your ideas through multiple forms of media; and determine your own approaches to individual and team open-ended projects.  Students experience a combination of experiential learning, projects, seminar discussions, guest speakers, and design sprints as they grow as leaders, designers, communicators, systems-thinkers, collaborators, and innovators. Grandey alumni have said that Leadership by design gave them “tools they can use to keep on growing,” such as designing for big problems, thinking systematically, asking better questions, working as a team, communicating proficiently in several ways, and embracing creativity.  
Intrigued by the sound of First-Year Honors but not sure Grandey is the perfect fit? Make sure to check out our sister program, Thorson First-Year Honors, which approaches the same interdisciplinary topics with a strong focus on the humanities and taking the perspectives of scientists, engineers, and artists. 

Beyond First-Year Honors

The Grandey First-Year Honors Experience has been designed to prepare students to succeed in upper-level University Honors and Scholars programs, such as the McBride Honors Program, Undergraduate Research, and more. Also, Leadership by Design is an entry point for the Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program, which is a 4-year experience that ends with certification from the National Academy of Engineering. (Visit for more information about these programs.)  Grandey also serves as the foundation for any major. In particular, Leadership by Design will prepare you very well for the Design Engineering (DE) in the Engineering, Design and Society Department, and the Humanitarian Engineering (HE) programs.  In addition, Grandey alumni can serve as Leadership by design teaching assistants and student directors.

Can I Apply to Both Leadership by Design and Thorson First-Year Honors Experiences?

Both the Grandey and Thorson First-Year Honors Experiences are designed to replace the same first-year courses, so you are only able to participate in one of these programs.  When you apply for First-Year Honors, you will be asked to indicate how interested you are in both programs, and we will use this information to select the best experience for you once you are accepted.

You can find out more about the Thorson First-Year Experience on their website (

Join the Grandey First-Year Honors: Leadership by Design Community!

A First-Year Honors Experience founded in Leadership and the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges

Leader? Innovator, Designer, Game-Changer, Tinkerer too? Would you like this to be you?


Start building your capabilities to address the complex problems of the world through leadership, communication, ethics, systems thinking, and design as you focus on the four themes of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program: Sustainability, Secure Living, Health, and Joy of Living 



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The directors of the Thorson and Grandey First-Year Honors Experiences will co-host a webinar December 5th from 4-5pm (mountain time) to briefly present about each program, contextualize what honors means at Mines, and answer your questions. Keep an eye on your email (and this spot) for a registration link!