Big Ideas Graduate Student Researcher

FTE: 50% (20 hours per week)

Since its founding in 2006, Big Ideas has inspired innovative and high-impact student-led projects aimed at solving important social problems all over the world. Big Ideas supports students at the very early stages of developing their idea. Often, students who compete in Big Ideas have never entered an innovation contest or written a real-world proposal. The Contest challenges students to step outside of their traditional academic classwork, take a risk, and use their education, passion, and skills to work on issues they care about. Since the Contest’s founding over a decade ago, Big Ideas has seeded hundreds of innovative products, services, companies and nonprofit organizations; has inspired and trained thousands of passionate students to create solutions to global challenges; and has become a leader in launching social innovations and innovators. Through this process, we have discovered that there is immense value to giving young people greater autonomy early in their career, particularly as undergraduates, encouraging them to identify big problems they are passionate about solving, teaching them how to innovate and execute on their ideas, helping them understand and evaluate the impact of a big idea, and investing seed funding in a diverse array of students and ideas.

Duties and Responsibilities

Big Ideas seeks a graduate student researcher (GSR) to work under the direction of Professor Daniel Fletcher, the Blum Center’s Chief Technologist, to help engage and understand the effect of external audiences (industry, foundations, partners) and internal audiences (students, alumni, faculty). The position includes robust operational responsibilities that will help facilitate the deep programmatic knowledge necessary to design and execute an effective research agenda. To that end, the GSR is responsible for strengthening the existing Big Ideas network of 1,500+ judges and mentors, 7,000+ alumni, and numerous other collaborators, while simultaneously exploring new networks. The resulting research design will be aimed at understanding and characterizing the role of external and internal audiences in facilitating participant success.

Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Leading the identification, recruitment, training and coordination of judges and mentors for the Big Ideas Contest.
  • Developing a systematic research agenda and process for monitoring and understanding the engagement of network members.
  • Designing research efforts aimed at tracking and understanding Big Ideas alumni, including developing and analyzing a biannual alumni survey.
  • Assisting with the design, execution and research evaluation of skill development workshops and speaker series.

To apply, send a brief cover letter and CV to Maryanne McCormick at with the title “Big Ideas GSR application” in the subject line.


  • A strong research background that includes training in quantitative methods, qualitative methods, or survey item design.
  • Content expertise in one or more of the Big Ideas tracks (see
  • Demonstrated ability to write effectively, analyze and summarize complex information.
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Ability to communicate to broad, diverse audiences through multiple media formats
  • Excellent organizational and time-management skills
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills to work effectively with all levels of staff, faculty, students, etc., both verbally and in writing

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Design and conduct research on the engagement of Big Ideas network members and the success of Big Ideas alumni.
  • Lead the identification, recruitment, training and coordination of judges and mentors for the Big Ideas Contest.
  • Develop a comprehensive list of campus faculty and centers and off-campus organizations (corporations, foundations, governmental organizations) that are sources for recruiting judges and mentors.
  • Lead outreach efforts to past judges and mentors, campus departments, past winners and others to recruit judges and mentors by proactively initiating phone calls and in-person meetings. Conduct all follow-up communication with prospective and recruited judges and mentors.
  • Assist with the creation of judge and mentor training guides.
  • Help support current applicants by holding office hours to help think through challenges with project design and implementation. The goal of office hours is both to provide an opportunity for applicants to think deeply and reflect on project ideas and provide directive feedback and advice on how to improve applicants’ project ideas and implementation strategies.