The Engaging Evidence initiative was designed to support institutions in linking institutional priorities and decision-making processes in ways that improve student learning, with an emphasis on helping them make effective use of existing data as they enact their projects. Funded projects focused on how to use existing data to better support underrepresented students, especially in the first year; to strengthen quantitative reasoning and writing skills and enhance cultural competence; to connect academic and co-curricular experiences; and strengthen senior capstone experiences.

The initiative was based on prior work funded by the Foundation indicating that institutions are most effective when they consciously frame efforts to improve student learning in terms of institutional priorities; find good ways of translating evidence about student learning in action, including through processes by which colleges and universities govern themselves, allocate resources, and reward performance; and leverage data they already have on hand rather than beginning every initiative with yet another round of data collection.
The Engaging Evidence initiative was informed by a listening held in October 2009. The meeting gathered faculty, assessment experts, and representatives of national consortia of colleges and universities to discuss how to explore the obstacles and impediments that hinder full use of student learning data on college and university campuses and identify potential cost-effective and sustainable ways of increasing the educational benefits from such evidence. The Foundation held a convening in January 2012 facilitated by Charles Blaich and Kathy Wise of the Center for Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College.