FEW Graduate Scholars Program

We are looking for the graduate students, post-docs, and outstanding senior undergrads for a transdisciplinary challenge for the Food-Energy-Water Nexus to cultivate an interdisciplinary peer network, develop teamwork skills and a CV-ready product as you explore solutions to a 'wicked' problem.

2022: Development of a Virtual Resource Center for Food, Energy, and Water Nexus Grand Challenges

Do you have an interest in learning with others from different disciplines? Do you want to make the world a better place? Are you willing to leave your disciplinary comfort zone and experience new things? You’d be perfect for a cohort challenge. Please complete the application form in the link below. Filling out the form does not obligate you to participate, it does mean that we will include you in emails as we get the cohort organized. You are free to decline participation if you find that your schedule doesn’t work or the challenge isn’t what you expected. (But we hope you will be as excited about it as us!) Read more below or see the syllabus…

FEW Graduate Scholars Program Application Form

Participants will form a high-performing team to tackle the development of a virtual resource center (VRC) to be made available to those planning to facilitate transdisciplinary cohort challenges on a variety of tpoics. You will curate and package materials from past INFEWS-ER challenges (not being offered in 2021-22):

What? The FEW Graduate Scholars Program is a novel practical experience for engaging students to apply both their technical and soft skills for addressing a wicked challenge. These experiences will connect graduate students from diverse disciplines and locations through both virtual and face-to-face learning experiences. Previous participants have been located at universities in Washington, Idaho, California, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, and São Paulo (Brazil). They have represented disciplinary areas of soil science, economics, animal science, data science, sociology, ecology, environmental science, dairy science, and many disciplines of engineering. We welcome applicants from those areas and seek applicants from additional locations and disciplines.

A multi-disciplinary team of university faculty designs graduate student experiences to help students successfully contribute to team-based approaches for addressing complex Food-Energy-Water challenges. They would like to collaborate with you, potential consumers of similar cohort challenges, to set  “The INFEWS-ER” A Virtual Resource Center Enabling Graduate Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems on a path to sustainability.

Who? Outstanding senior undergraduates, graduate students in either M.S. and Ph.D. programs, and graduates in post-doc positions are encouraged to consider this learning opportunity. We are especially interested in the participation of individuals from a wide range of disciplines, e.g., social sciences, economists, engineers, and scientists. We also hope to recruit cohorts that represent a range of experience in qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research.

When? The Cohort Challenge consists of virtual weekly meetings after the start of the spring term (starting in January) and a face-to-face* symposium in Chicago (March), and conclude by May 2022.

Where? Students will experience the Cohort Challenge virtually through Zoom, Google Drive, and Moodle. One three days face-to-face* Symposium is anticipated during March 2022.

*If concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic preclude a face-to-face event, a virtual symposium will be held in its place.

How Much Time Will I Commit (student)?

Cohorts are designed to be roughly equivalent to a three-credit-hour course for those on a semester system (4.5 credit hours for those on a trimester system). We encourage students to work with their advisors to build this into their academic plans as a 3-credit hour special problems course. A full course syllabus and description are available for documentation requirements.

Prior challenges included 15-16 scheduled (minimum of one hour) video conference sessions (occurring mostly weekly) with the cohort mentors and guest speakers. Most student cohorts eventually organized meeting times on their own to work on their final product. Individual participants conducted research to develop their contribution to the final product. Several cohorts have proceeded to write and submit peer-reviewed manuscripts for publication.

What will you gain from this challenge?

Cohorts are encouraged to develop a final product (to be determined by the cohort) that can be added to the student’s CV or otherwise be included among their professional accomplishments. Products from past cohorts have included an educational website, journal article, recommendation report to policymakers, and others. There will be an opportunity for cohorts to contribute to an upcoming special journal issue sponsored by the INFEWS-ER project.

Students who complete the challenge will receive a certificate recognizing the development of transdisciplinary skills through this program. If interested, they can participate as mentors for future cohorts.

Each cohort has identified learning objectives and learning outcomes. These outcomes are focused on both development of interpersonal skills as well as technical skills.

Specifically, in the context of the Development of a Virtual Resource Center for Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Grand Challenges, we anticipate key challenges to be addressed may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

  • Setting the standard for use of wicked problems in instructional environments
  • Identifying gaps in effective delivery of learning in virtual environments
  • Optimizing interactions with advisors of cohort challenges with their participants and between the participants
  • Providing a template  for the success of others in transdisciplinary environments

In addition to success in the Development of a Virtual Resource center, we anticipate several Interdisciplinary Outcomes will follow for participants:

  • Students will implement concepts specific to Systems Thinking;
  • Students will communicate effectively across disciplines;
  • Students will apply principles of “High Performing Teams”;
  • Students will design interactions that demonstrate the importance of engaging stakeholders and consider their perspectives.


If this experience sounds like something you would like to explore, please complete the form in the link below. Filling out the form does not obligate you to participate, it does mean that we will include you in our emails as we get the cohorts organized. You are free to decline participation if you find that your schedule doesn’t work or the challenge isn’t what you expected. (But we hope you will be as excited about it as us!)

FEW Graduate Scholars Program Application Form