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Univ of Pennsylvania Becomes the First Ivy League School to Launch Undergrad Major Program in AI

Scheduled for fall 2024, the program, part of the Raj and Neera Singh Program in AI, focuses on producing AI leaders and incorporates ethics.
UPDATED FEB 19, 2024
Cover Image Source: Artificial Intelligence for Students (representative image) | Unsplash | Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
Cover Image Source: Artificial Intelligence for Students (representative image) | Unsplash | Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The University of Pennsylvania, a prestigious Ivy League institution known for producing high-earning graduates, is set to introduce a groundbreaking undergraduate major in artificial intelligence (AI). This move, part of the Raj and Neera Singh Program in Artificial Intelligence, makes Penn the first Ivy League school to offer an AI-focused engineering program at the undergraduate level. While other universities like Carnegie Mellon and Purdue already provide AI majors, Penn's program aims to produce the next generation of engineers equipped to navigate the evolving landscape of AI technology, per CNBC Make It.

Students graduating (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Emily Ranquist
Students graduating (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Emily Ranquist

Scheduled to commence in the fall of 2024, the Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Artificial Intelligence at Penn reflects a commitment to preparing students for leadership roles in 21st-century engineering. George Pappas, the UPS Foundation professor of transportation at Penn Engineering and director of the AI program, emphasizes the program's goal to accelerate students into becoming AI leaders, addressing societal challenges promptly.

The program offers five concentrations, allowing students to specialize in specific AI areas: Robotics, Vision/Language, Machine Learning, Data/Society, and Health/Systems. This specialization approach aligns with the diverse applications of AI, from robotics to healthcare, reflecting the multidimensional nature of the field.

Acknowledging the ethical implications of AI technology, Penn incorporates an ethics requirement into the curriculum. Students must choose from courses such as Ethical Algorithm Design and those offered by Penn's Law School, focusing on technology, AI, and ethics. In response to the increasing concerns about biased algorithms and AI-related scams, the emphasis on ethical development is crucial to shaping responsible AI practitioners.

Importantly, the AI courses are not limited to students enrolled in the AI major; they are open to all Penn students, recognizing the widespread impact of AI across various disciplines. Robert Ghrist, associate dean of undergraduate education at Penn Engineering, emphasizes the universality of AI's influence on learning, stating that "all students—everywhere—are going to find that AI impacts how they learn any subject."

Student using AI to study | Pexels|  Photo by Buro Millennial
Student using AI to study (representative image) | Pexels| Photo by Buro Millennial

AI's far-reaching impact on industries and job roles underscores the importance of developing AI skills. Beyond creating new applications, workers in various fields will need to adapt to the integration of AI into existing tasks and processes. Penn's innovative AI degree, characterized by its forward-looking approach, aims to prepare students for jobs that are yet to emerge, signaling the university's commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements.

As of 2023, the global AI in education market has surpassed expectations, reaching an estimated $3.68 billion, per ZipDo. Over 50% of higher education institutions in the United States have already incorporated various AI forms, with more than 40% prioritizing AI implementation as a core tech strategy. Notably, 64% of educational institutions recognize AI's pivotal role in ensuring seamless business continuity. The integration of AI technologies in education has witnessed substantial growth, with a nearly 47.5% increase from 2017 to 2021. AI is poised to automate grading for nearly 100% of multiple-choice exams and 50% of essays in higher education by 2030, underscoring the profound evolution of AI in shaping the future of education.

The responsible use of AI in education raises concerns about bias and effectiveness, but it holds immense potential to offer targeted learning experiences for students. Testing methodologies are shifting toward providing actionable insights, moving beyond traditional evaluations to offer clarity on students' strengths and weaknesses. The importance of data in enhancing AI functionality is emphasized, with a focus on refining datasets for more precise and impactful AI applications. As the education sector converges with technological advancements, AI is set to redefine learning paths, ensuring a more personalized and effective educational experience for students.