Carnegie Mellon University

Amy Burkert Joins Simon Initiative Leadership Team

Amy Burkert

Carnegie Mellon University has appointed Amy Burkert as a co-coordinator of the Simon Initiative.

Created by CMU President Subra Suresh in 2013, the Simon Initiative is designed to set the university up as a learning research lab that supports data-driven, continuous educational improvement. It is named after Herbert A. Simon, the late CMU and Nobel Prize-winning professor who pioneered using a learning engineering approach to improve education.

Burkert (S’90), vice provost for education, succeeds Justine Cassell, associate dean for technology strategy and impact in the School of Computer Science (SCS). Cassell has served on the Simon leadership team since the beginning and has helped to represent and promote the initiative’s efforts on national and international levels. She will continue to be involved in the Simon Initiative while focusing on her research and other responsibilities in SCS.

"Through the World Economic Forum, Global Learning Council and countless other activities, Justine has tirelessly worked to move the Simon Initiative agenda forward. Amy’s devotion to students and teachers, both at CMU and elsewhere, is almost unparalleled, and I look forward to working with her on the leadership team," said Richard Scheines, dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and faculty lead of the Simon Initiative.

A trained biologist, Burkert has long been recognized as an innovator in higher education. Before becoming vice provost in 2010, she was the assistant dean for educational initiatives and health professions in the Mellon College of Science (MCS) and was credited with strengthening and advancing the pre-medical education programs across CMU.

Burkert has been active in a wide variety of projects that focus on the undergraduate learning experience, including work on the award-winning Association of American Colleges Shared Futures project to expand global education and helping to create new opportunities for CMU undergraduates to engage in high impact educational practice. She was also part of the team that developed an introductory biological sciences course for CMU’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), which is used at and beyond Carnegie Mellon.

"Amy lives and breathes the Simon Initiative mission; her passion and focus on improving education for CMU students are unmatched," said Norman Bier, executive director of the Simon Initiative and director of OLI. "Not only was she an early contributor to OLI’s success, she has been instrumental in many other projects designed to improve learning outcomes, including the recent MCS Core Education overhaul."

Work that falls under the Simon Initiative involves hundreds of faculty members and researchers at CMU and crosses colleges, departments and fields. Research spans the cognitive mechanisms of learning, educational data mining, computer-supported collaborative learning, socio-cultural influences on learning, educational games, the neural bases of learning and many other areas.

On joining the Simon Initiative leadership team, Burkert said that she is looking forward to working with colleagues to advance the positive impact the integration of learning science research and innovative educational approaches can have on the CMU educational experience.

"The Simon approach bridges research and education to improve learning gains at the individual, course, and program levels. This can have a transformative effect on student learning and be a distinctive element of our educational programs," Burkert said.

In addition to Burkert, Ken Koedinger, professor of human-computer interaction and psychology, and Marsha Lovett, director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, are co-coordinators of the Simon Initiative.
By Shilo Rea