UF discusses AI University initiative in national panel 


Discussing artificial intelligence (AI) and the role higher education can play in shaping its impact, University of Florida leaders presented to a national audience Oct. 7 about its sweeping initiative to make AI available across curriculum and offer thousands of students the opportunity to be trained in the application of AI technologies poised to revolutionize tomorrow’s workforce. 

 The panel, titled “Realizing the Vision of an AI University,” took place at a national technology conference hosted by Silicon Valley technology company and UF partner NVIDIA. The panel was moderated by NVIDIA Director of Higher Education and Research Cheryl Martin and included UF Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Joe Glover, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean David Richardson, and Chief Artificial Intelligence Architect, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, U.S. Department of Defense Maj. Nathanial D. Bastian. Attendees included nearly 350 higher education and technology leaders from around the globe. 

 “AI is entering all sectors of society and having a rapid and profound impact,” Glover said. “For us at UF, an AI university is one in which every student -- no matter their chosen occupation -- has an opportunity to learn about AI and data science at whatever capacity they would like.” 

 UF’s vision to infuse AI across academic disciplines is the first of its kind and is likely to serve as a model for institutions across the country and globe eager to make their mark in a field likely to revolutionize the way we all work and live. Anchored by a $70 million research and education partnership with NVIDIA, UF is building the most powerful supercomputer in higher education and has committed to hiring 100 new faculty dedicated to AI. As a result of the investment, thousands of students -- no matter their area of study -- will have the opportunity to gain AI experience and expertise and train on the most advanced hardware. UF’s powerful AI infrastructure will also put researchers on the front lines of addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, advancing various cures and vaccines and further understanding sea level rise and its solutions. 

 “UF is working to develop a philosophy and culture across the university in which faculty and students understand the potential applications of AI in their fields and feel empowered to access these tools in whatever capacity will help with their learning and research,” Richardson said. “This initiative has the potential to transform the way we deliver education and also has enormous implications for workforce development in the state of Florida and across the Southeast.”  

 The push to increase graduates with competence in AI also provides opportunities for partnerships with government and industry partners and is likely to align with workforce demands in areas such as precision medicine, autonomous automobiles and agriculture. UF students will also have full opportunity to take classes on AI ethics and bias, which are important components of the AI ecosystem, and will also enlarge UF’s already robust tech transfer operation to include AI applications.  

 “AI is a critical workforce tool, and I believe every student should graduate with some knowledge of the technology,” Bastian said. “It’s critically important this next generation understands how to use AI responsibly and is educated about its impacts and issues.” 

October 13, 2020