AI4ALL Launches College Pathways, a New Initiative to Inspire and Support Emerging AI Leaders at the Collegiate Level
The initiative launches with support from Pivotal Ventures and with initial sites at Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Today, AI4ALL announced College Pathways, a new initiative designed to spark interest and support persistence in artificial intelligence for undergraduate students. The initiative has received a $5 million 5-year grant from Pivotal Ventures and is affiliated with Pivotal Ventures’ recently announced Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities. AI4ALL programs are designed to unite and uplift new voices that will lead and shape the future of AI, including Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Southeast Asian students, trans women, non-binary people, and cis women, low-income students, first-generation college students, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer students.
College Pathways consists of a suite of programs, each designed to work in tandem. The programs will create community, build on the academic experiences students are having in the classroom, and prepare students to enter an AI career or pursue further AI education after their bachelor’s degree with a nuanced understanding of the ethical and societal implications of AI. Texas A&M University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign served as pilot partners for AI4ALL College Pathways in spring 2020 and will continue to host College Pathways programs in fall 2020.
As demand for computer science degrees and talent grows, representation does not
Generation Z is the most racially diverse American generation yet and is on track to become the best-educated, according to a recent Pew report. As interest in computer science and AI undergraduate degrees grows, universities have struggled to keep up with demand, making entrance into these programs increasingly elusive for many students.
From 2006 to 2015, the number of undergraduate computer science majors increased by nearly 300% while growth in tenure track faculty grew by only 22%, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2019, under 15% of computer science bachelor’s degree recipients identified as Indigenous, Black, Latinx/Hispanic, or multiracial; only around 4% of master’s and PhD degree recipients identified with these same racial groups. Around 20% of computer science degree recipients at all levels identified as women of any race.
Like interest in computer science degrees, AI roles and adoption have proliferated in recent years. Last year, Indeed reported that Machine Learning Engineer was the fastest-growing job on their platform, with 344% growth in the number of job listings from 2015 to 2018. A recent Gartner survey of US companies reported 37% of respondents had implemented at least one AI-related technology and 54% of respondents noted that AI skill shortage is the top challenge their company is facing.
As AI adoption and career opportunities grow, so do the impacts of the field — both positive and negative. At the university level, only 18% of data science students report that they’re learning about AI ethics. A lack of training in AI ethics and the relative homogeneity of perspectives and backgrounds in the AI field have resulted in numerous well-documented examples of AI that harms communities of color. Education is one of a handful of areas that must be addressed to more equitably distribute power in AI.
AI4ALL College Pathways is launching at a time when the need for new, diverse AI leaders is more urgent than ever, but the current population of undergrads along the AI path are not representative of the diversity we see in our society.
College Pathways is creating avenues into AI for emerging leaders
AI4ALL College Pathways is an initiative designed to spark interest and support persistence in artificial intelligence for undergraduate students who are new voices in the field of AI. The program offerings are co-hosted with universities and connect participants with interdisciplinary and ethics-focused AI education, career-readiness resources, and a supportive on-campus peer community. College Pathways is designed to work in tandem with AI academic courses offered by participants’ universities.
The initiative’s programs will include:
- Discover AI — An intensive workshop for college students not already on an AI academic path to introduce them to the field, get them excited about AI, and encourage them to take the next step in their academic path in AI
- Campus Chapters — A group that gives students who are on an AI academic path an opportunity to build community as well as a forum to engage with more challenging AI projects and to develop tangible products to add to their portfolio for internship/job applications. Students will additionally have access to internship preparation and placement resources.
Discover AI ran its first pilot in spring 2020 at Texas A&M University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and will officially launch in fall 2020. The Campus Chapters program will be piloted in fall 2020. All programs are running virtually during the COVID-19 crisis.
Discover AI pilot students noted that they particularly appreciated the program’s focus on the ethics and social implications of artificial intelligence, as well as AI’s interdisciplinary potential. Students also found themselves more interested in pursuing AI after the program. Texas A&M undergraduate Joceline Ballesteros, “loved learning everything about AI and what is used to create it,” and noted, “I could see myself working in this field in the future.” Sixty-nine percent of Discover AI pilot students at Texas A&M reported an increase in their interest in pursuing an AI career after completing the program. Seventy-four percent of pilot participants at Texas A&M identified as Indigenous, Black, Latinx/Hispanic, or multiracial, and 55% identified as women of any race.
College Pathways joins AI4ALL’s roster of programs that, until now, have exclusively welcomed high school students. “We’re at a pivotal moment for the field of artificial intelligence as its impact continues to grow but leadership roles and power remain unevenly distributed. We want to be able to solve the problem of inequity in AI as quickly as we’re seeing new AI tools develop, so we are expanding our program offerings to serve college students in addition to high school students,” said Roshni Kasad, Senior Director of College Pathways. “College Pathways will create more entry points into the field of AI for students whose voices the field sorely needs.”
As College Pathways continues to launch new programs, the initiative will welcome new university partners. For more information about how to bring College Pathways to your campus, visit our website.
AI4ALL is an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit that opens doors to the artificial intelligence industry for new and emerging talent through education and mentorship. We nurture a global community of students who learn AI fundamentals and who then apply those principles to solve society’s most pressing problems in deeply innovative and ethical ways. By telling a new story about who can be a leader in AI, we’re creating tomorrow’s AI leaders and changing technology’s future. AI4ALL has received funding from Pivotal Ventures, Jensen and Lori Huang, Google.org, Prudential Financial, Microsoft, EY, and The Micron Foundation, among others.