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Undergraduate AI major awaits state approval

A new artificial intelligence major may be offered to undergraduate students at Ohio University as early as next fall.

The university has approved the AI major, but it must be approved by the state before it can be officially implemented under the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

The major came with support from the Provost’s Office through the Program Innovation Accelerator. The program is a resource dedicated to highlighting and improving current university programs and investing in new initiatives on campus with emerging interest.

Avinash Karanth, chair of the school of electrical engineering and computer science, was one of the professors who drafted the proposal for the major and wrote the curriculum.

Karanth said the increased student interest in AI played a part in creating the curriculum. 

"We can see that (AI) classes are generally filled up,” Karanth said. “Students had a lot of inputs in the sense that they wanted this to be a major because they will be taking these classes that would count for the technical electives.”

The proposed coursework teaches students the basics of AI, providing an entry-level education that is not currently offered by the college, before moving onto advanced concepts, Karanth said.

The major would include four core AI courses every student in the major takes and some advanced electives focusing on data science, hardware for deep learning, medical image analysis and more, Karanth said.

Russ College Associate Dean for Academics David Juedes also helped with the initial proposal of the major. 

Even though the AI major is new, the university has AI courses dating all the way back to 1969, Juedes said. 

The university has offered AI-focused classes under the Russ College that were catered toward seniors and graduate students, Karanth said. Those courses range from as low as the 3000 level to as high as the 6000 level.

“(The AI major) aligns very well with our department goals because we were already teaching those classes,” Karanth said. “Then there was this Program Innovation Accelerator from the university which said, ‘Hey, we want to look at these new programs if someone will develop them,’ and we were the right group to do it.”

After gaining initial support from the PIA during the 2021-22 academic year, the AI major was created and submitted to the University Curriculum Council the following year, Karanth said. Once it was approved by the UCC, it was then approved by the Board of Trustees in January 2024.

“As innovation progresses, education must also progress,” Board of Trustees Chair Peggy Viehweger wrote in an email. “We must ensure students are learning the skills and knowledge to continue to shape the future of our world.”

A group of Russ College professors prepared a program proposal of the full curriculum for the AI major and submitted it to the UCC and the Board of Trustees, Karanth said.  

A proposal must be approved by the Ohio Department of Higher Education before the major can be officially marketed or implemented by the university, Karanth said. The college has submitted the major to the state for review, but it is still awaiting a decision.

Without approval from the state, students can’t apply to be AI majors, Juedes said. 

Russ College faculty are hoping to get the major approved before the Fall 2024 Semester. However, students could not apply for the major because it has not yet been approved. 

Since the Board of Trustees approved the major, the college has been busy recruiting faculty dedicated to teaching classes on the AI track, Karanth said.

If the major is approved, OU will be the first university in the state to have the undergraduate program, Juedes said.

“It's an exciting time to be a computer scientist and they have lots of interesting things going on,” he said. 

There are few colleges in the country with undergraduate degrees in AI, Juedes said. However, he cited Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania as examples of schools with AI degrees.

“Bachelor of Science in computer science has been around a long time; there's lots of computer science degrees,” Juedes said. “Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence is pretty new.”

Juedes said the new major is coming at a pertinent time for students interested in a career in AI.

“My colleagues and I have seen this growth in these artificial intelligence techniques becoming more and more important in the world, and (we are) also seeing job prospects for students in very AI focused companies,” Juedes said.


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