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National Journal Looks to UAA for Leadership in AI

August 9, 2021

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has selected Dr. Helena S. Wisniewski to lead a special edition of its Technology & Innovation journal, Artificial Intelligence Education. Dr. Wisniewksi is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and professor of entrepreneurship and chair of the Department of Management, Marketing, Logistics and Business Analytics in UAA’s College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP). Joining her on the board of special editors is Dr. Kenrick Mock, dean of the UAA College of Engineering (COENG).

Wisniewski played a key role in developing advances and applications of AI over the course of her career. In her 2020 article “What is the Business with AI?”, she championed the timeliness and importance of incorporating AI into business education. The national focus on AI sharpened in January 2021, with the U.S. National AI Initiative Act. “It establishes funding mechanisms to help K-12 and university students develop AI knowledge and skills,” Wisniewski said. “An increasing number of universities are adding or strengthening courses and programs on AI/ML and data sciences.”

UAA is among those universities:

  • CBPP offers new graduate and undergraduate certificates in AI and Business Analytics to meet workforce needs. Wisniewski created and teaches the College’s first AI course, AI with Business Applications, and developed a webinar series in 2021 that featured AI impacts on national defense, finance, healthcare and autonomous vehicles.
  • The College of Engineering (COENG) offers computer science courses in evolutionary computation, AI and machine learning. In these courses, students write software that use genetic algorithms to evolve programs to solve problems, compete in an AI vs. AI strategy game competition, and explore neural networks and other machine learning techniques to address real-world challenges, such as identifying invasive plants from camera images.
  • CBPP and the COENG have partnered on the Alaska Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (ADSAIL), where students will collaborate on research and applications and advance their knowledge and skills of AI, data science and augmented reality.
  • Partnering with corporate sponsors has provided an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the world of AI and data science. UAA students can apply for internships through the McKinley ADSAIL Scholars Award, funded by the lab’s first corporate sponsor, McKinley Capital Management LLC. “This award provides financial assistance toward tuition for students enrolled in a UAA internship course and placed to work on data science and AI related projects at McKinley. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn AI and data science as applied to finance,” Mock said. “McKinley set up a lab for our computing students in its facility. Students have worked on projects such as sentiment analysis, which uses text mining techniques to determine if data is positive, negative, or neutral.”

These examples from the university level illustrate just some of the opportunity for educational adjustments and innovations inspired by a focus on AI. The NAI Technology & Innovation special edition will draw from a broad group of researchers and interdisciplinary teams to form a dynamic picture of AI education from K-12 to institutions of higher learning and beyond.

“AI has long been a passion of mine and I am thrilled that the National Academy of Innovators asked me to edit this special issue,” Wisniewski said. “It will be exciting to hear from a diverse group of scholars around the country who can illustrate the impact of AI on students. Kindergartners today will have a vastly different educational experience by the time they reach college - and they will live in a world that is dramatically different than today. As a society, we need to be forward thinking about how we prepare them - and this journal will highlight the opportunities inherent in that charge.”

Artificial Intelligence Education: K-12, Universities and beyond is seeking contributions through December 1, 2021 with a focus on areas such as: software and learning platforms for AI education, AI curriculum development, integration of AI with quantum computing, logistics, finance, and robotic and biological technologies, and ethical and societal implications of AI.