Educators and administrators have found that although Carnegie Mellon strongly prepares its students with the subject matter expertise and technical skills needed for entry-level jobs, these same students often struggle to earn promotions for leadership positions that require a stronger grasp of communication skills. While students are adept at developing and executing their ideas, a lack of empowerment in communicating — both in sharing and defending their choices and in mobilizing and inspiring their colleagues — is a hurdle to advancement.
The central mission of the Simon Initiative is to link learning science and educational practice in a symbiotic relationship, with each informing and supporting the other. The project was named for Nobel laureate and Turing Award winner Herbert A. Simon, who declared that “Improvement in post-secondary education will require converting teaching from a solo sport to a community-based research activity.” The Simon Initiative advances his values, seeking to create a "learning engineering ecosystem" built from data-driven insights. The Simon Initiative is affiliated with many of CMU's most prominent programs, from IDeATe to Randy Pausch's Alice.