This work investigates how participation in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) influences first year engineering students' development of a systems perspective. Students in the NAE GCSP participate in curricular and extracurricular activities to gain research/project experience, an interdisciplinary perspective, an entrepreneurial mindset, multicultural awareness, and social consciousness. At Arizona State University, most GCSP students begin program participation in their first year, primarily through a GCSP specific course designed to help them to develop an interdisciplinary perspective. Each year, approximately 20-25 percent of the incoming GCSP freshmen get involved in the program before classes start, during a weeklong summer program. To evaluate how these GCSP activities influence students' development of systems perspective, qualitative research methods were used to analyze students' end of semester course reflections. Results of a thematic analysis of the data indicate that first year students participating in these activities experience a change in how they think about engineering, recognizing the complexity of problems facing society and the need to consider societal factors (e.g. policy, culture) when developing engineering solutions.