How to Deal With AI? Embrace It

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Tuesday, April 2, 2024
By Molly Loonam
Illustration by iStock/Eva Almqvist
There’s no stopping the advance of artificial intelligence, so Arizona State focuses on making sure students use it in a safe and mindful manner.
  • The W. P. Carey School of Business has established the Center for AI and Data Analytics for Business and Society to provide corporate clients with insights into balancing innovation with responsibility.
  • Through a collaboration with OpenAI, the university is experimenting with ways that ChatGPT can improve research, teaching, and the overall student experience.
  • This fall, W. P. Carey is launching a Master of Science of Artificial Intelligence in Business.

Over the past few years, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have revolutionized how we teach, learn, research, and work. But as AI evolves, higher education must keep pace by not only training students for careers in a constantly evolving business landscape, but also by preparing future leaders to take mindful approaches to harnessing the power of emerging technologies.

“As we advance technologically, we must remain vigilant about the sustainability of our actions and their effects on society,” says Pei-yu “Sharon” Chen, information systems (IS) chair and Red Avenue Foundation Professor at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School in Tempe.

Chen—who has studied the relationship between emerging technologies, education, and business for more than two decades—currently focuses her research on how AI can lead to a better world when users understand the technology’s broader impacts. In particular, she is studying how data analytics tools can be mindfully applied to advance business, enhance social welfare, and promote responsible innovation.

Through the efforts of Chen and other faculty, the W. P. Carey School of Business is embracing AI with new programs, a new center, and a new collaboration with a major AI provider—all while emphasizing the importance of mindful innovation. Here’s a look at some of the school’s recent initiatives.

A Dedicated Center

While the field of IS brims with possibilities, the hasty adoption of new technologies is concerning, says Chen. In fact, she believes its implications for society are “potentially more profound than those of the Industrial Revolution.”

In 2023, driven by the desire to harness AI’s potential in an ethical way, Chen founded the Center for AI and Data Analytics (AIDA) for Business and Society (also called the Mindful AI center). She co-directs the center with W. P. Carey Distinguished Chair and Professor of Information Systems Olivia Liu Sheng, whose research focuses on AI’s societal impact.

AIDA houses three formerly independent units at ASU:

  • The Actionable Analytics Lab, which bridges the gap between academic research and applied execution of machine learning methodology, deep data analytics, computational linguistics, and social network analysis.
  • The Digital Society Initiative, which aims to understand the roles of digital technologies in transforming consumers, businesses, and society.
  • The ASU Blockchain Research Lab, which advances the research and development of blockchain-based technologies.
Professor Pei-yu Chen believes AI’s implications for society are “potentially more profound than those of the Industrial Revolution.”

Through the center, IS faculty connect with corporate partners who need data analytics and AI support. Because the center promotes mindful AI, corporate clients get insights into balancing innovation with responsibility.

The center also supports faculty and PhD students as they address the challenges and opportunities presented by AI and data analytics, such as the digital divide, inequality, and algorithmic biases. For instance, researchers explore technology’s broader impact on humanity; look for ways to make technology sustainable in the way it is used; and seek to reduce the risk of technology misuse in areas such as ethics, privacy, security, fairness, and personal well-being.

A Powerful Partnership

In January, ASU became the first institute of higher education to collaborate with OpenAI, the research and development company behind ChatGPT. The company provides the university with a ChatGPT instance—a version of the large language model that is more secure than and separate from the public version.

As ASU faculty and staff experiment with cutting-edge technology, they will provide OpenAI with insights about how AI can support higher education in terms of research, teaching, and the overall student experience, while also inspiring collaboration that drives academic innovation and business development.

After the collaboration was announced, the university invited faculty and staff to submit proposals to the AI Innovation Challenge to leverage ChatGPT Enterprise in their work and research. During the first round of applications, the university received more than 175 proposals. It accepted 105 and issued more than 800 ChatGPT Enterprise licenses to employees from 14 of ASU’s 17 schools, colleges, enterprise units, and teams.

One selected proposal covers initiatives such as innovating the way GPTs are used for educational practices. Another proposal enables the school to use demographic data and empathy mapping techniques (strategies for determining what potential customers might be thinking and feeling) to create educational materials that feature diverse student personas (fictionalized versions of typical customers).

Six proposals from W. P. Carey employees were selected, covering a range of topics: investigating supply chain risk-sensing; collecting exclusions of non-generally accepted accounting principles; conducting commodity strategic analysis; combatting decision-making biases; and developing AI’s applications in curriculum, teaching, learning, and the student experience.

The technical implementation of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT Enterprise is being led by Lev Gonick, ASU’s chief information officer, and a team of technologists at ASU’s Enterprise Technology office. Because the university setting nurtures responsible innovation and groundbreaking ideas, says Gonick, “we’re hyperfocused on putting ChatGPT Enterprise into the hands of faculty and staff.”

Gonick emphasizes that one goal is to find ways that emerging technologies can augment—not replace—human learning and creativity. But another goal is to make certain that future leaders implement AI responsibly.

As ASU collaborates with OpenAI, faculty and staff are submitting proposals showing how they can leverage ChatGPT Enterprise in their work and research.

“We focus not only on equipping students with the right tools to succeed in college and in their careers, but also on teaching our students to be responsible digital consumers and creators,” says Gonick.

For that reason, ASU is ensuring that its collaboration with OpenAI adheres to the concepts of mindful AI and Principled Innovation (PI). Through the design aspiration of PI, ASU commits to creating positive change through its initiatives. In this way, says Chen, the university “aligns technological advancements with broader goals and values,” so that the future of AI is inclusive, equitable, and beneficial for all.

A Chat About Chatbots

Even faculty who are not part of the Mindful AI center or the OpenAI initiative have ample opportunities to thoughtfully discuss the effects of emerging technology on higher education. One avenue is a speaker series called “Coffee Tea, and ChatGPT,” which debuted in the spring of 2023 just months after ChatGPT was released.

The speaker series was launched shortly after Dan Gruber, associate dean for teaching and learning, attended the 2023 ASU+Global Silicon Valley Summit, which explored how AI could impact teaching and learning. Gruber partnered with W. P. Carey’s teaching leads and the university provost’s office to create the series, which gives faculty, staff, and external participants a space for sharing information about how technologies such as AI can be used in learning, business, and research.

“Coffee, Tea, and ChatGPT” discussions have covered topics such as what kind of effect AI has on ownership, identity, and intellectual property; how AI can be used as a teaching tool; how AI could impact academic integrity; and how higher education institutions might embrace—or reject—emerging technologies.

In one session, Chen spoke about the Mindful AI center, discussing the risks presented by AI and the ways that mindful AI and PI can promote positive societal impact. Other sessions also have intentionally emphasized Principled Innovation, which is considered a core element of business education at ASU.

“AI will only get more relevant in every area of business education,” says Gruber, who is one of the College Catalysts chosen to oversee W. P. Carey’s efforts to infuse PI into its curriculum. “Having a forum for these conversations is critical for us to learn together.”

Another way that W. P. Carey builds AI literacy among faculty and staff is through a professional development series called “Let’s Get Down to Business.” As part of the series, the school offers a generative AI course taught by Geoff Pofahl, clinical assistant professor of information systems. In the course, faculty and staff learn to increase productivity by using ChatGPT to brainstorm, analyze data, generate nonpersonal writing, summarize information, prepare presentations, and create images.

In a speaker series, discussions cover how AI might affect intellectual property, impact academic integrity, and be embraced by higher education institutions.

In a recent session, Pofahl described an experiment that used AI to grade student participation assignments against a complex rubric. Students recorded weekly presentations on Zoom, redacted personal information, and submitted the transcripts to an AI application. The AI read and graded the papers, then emailed grade information to 200 students—all within 30 minutes. The task would have taken Pofahl days to complete on his own.

“We’re just scratching the surface today,” says Pofahl. “I’m excited about the possibilities because they allow us to completely rethink how we teach, evaluate our students, and do work.”

Students also are encouraged to develop their own knowledge of AI. For instance, the school supports the AI in Business Club at ASU, which attracts graduate students passionate about leveraging AI to drive innovation, sustainability, and ethical practices.

A Curriculum That Puts AI at the Center

While ASU’s OpenAI licenses are not yet eligible for classroom use, W. P. Carey is already integrating AI content into several courses and programs:

  • The Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence in Business (MS-AIB). Launching this fall, the program teaches students the technical and managerial skills they need to implement AI into various business scenarios. It also encourages future leaders to use AI in an ethical fashion and in ways that enhance societal well-being. The program was created through a collaborative effort among Chen; Ohad Kadan, dean of W. P. Carey; IS faculty; and the Graduate Programs office.
  • The Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM). Designed to prepare students of all backgrounds to become mindful information technology leaders, this program has an AI curriculum focused on how people, processes, and technology relate to AI applications, techniques, and implications.
  • An AI concentration in the Full-Time MBA. Courses cover cutting-edge knowledge in business intelligence and AI applications while highlighting the societal and ethical implications of integrating AI into business strategies and infrastructures.
  • A Certificate in Artificial Intelligence in Business. The three-course program trains learners in the mechanics of technology and intelligent system design and shows them how technology can transform organizational strategy and revolutionize business operations. Those who complete the certificate can apply its credits toward the MS-AIB, the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA), the MS-ISM, or the online MBA.

“As AI technologies become more prevalent in the educational landscape, it is imperative for educators to impart a mindful approach to AI usage among students,” says Dan Mazzola, MS-ISM faculty director and assistant chair. “By integrating AI into core educational offerings and providing flexible learning opportunities tailored to various student needs, business schools will ensure that graduates are well-equipped to fulfill the diverse and evolving career demands in AI-enabled organizations.”

Molly Loonam
Copywriter, W. P. Carey Marketing and Communications, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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