Story-Centered Curriculum for Carnegie Mellon University

When Carnegie Mellon University established a Silicon Valley Campus in 2002 it wanted a cutting edge curriculum that would enable students to acquire and practice the essential skills and knowledge that they would use upon graduation in the real world. They turned to Socratic Arts to design and develop six Master's degree programs using the Story-Centered Curriculum approach. Each program consists entirely of projects—students work in teams, one project at a time, mentored by experts. Each project leads naturally to the next, and taken all together, they embody the story of life in this fictional world—the life of a software engineer or e-commerce consultant.

For the past three years, all Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley alumni have been surveyed to ascertain the career value they attribute to their graduate education. (No comparison data for other programs are available.)

Results (as a percentage of survey respondents):

Rather than ending this discussion with dry statistics, however, let us end it by letting some of our students speak for themselves:

The program's learn-by-doing curriculum mimics the way the software industry works in the real world. The faculty guided us through software processes, assigning work that consisted of writing code, completing projects, leading teams, and negotiating with stakeholders about requirements and deliverables. The program exposed me to a variety of techniques and methodologies for developing software, which I really appreciated, since at work I am only exposed to my company's process. However, the program truly exceeded my expectations in how it taught me the importance of team building and soft skills. Understanding the importance of these skills and honing them throughout my two years has helped me not only professionally but personally as well.

– Silicon Valley MSSE 2008 graduate

I am already taking away a lot from my schoolwork and applying it to my job because I can leverage it right away. What I learn on Monday, I can apply on Wednesday.

– a student early in the Silicon Valley program

I have used every concept from the curriculum in my daily work as a senior developer on challenging software projects.

– Pittsburgh MSIT-SE '05

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