ASU team receives grant to create artificial intelligence undergraduate program

Three Arizona State University professors have received a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities grant for $100,000 to create an undergraduate certificate program in artificial intelligence in digital culture in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. 

The team — Assistant Professor Suren Jayasuriya, Associate Professor Ed Finn and Professor Sha Xin Wei — spent the last year designing the new curriculum with the help of an NEH planning grant they previously received. Outcomes of the project included podcasts produced by the Center for Science and the Imagination with notable figures such as Katherine Bouman, who helped take the first image of a black hole; Moya Bailey, a Black queer feminist scholar, writer and activist; and Regina Kanyu Wang, a science fiction writer, researcher and critic from Shanghai.

"Our planning process last year yielded productive conversations with scientists and engineers, humanities professors and science fiction writers,” Suren said. “We also prototyped new classes such as AME 494 Minds and Machines, where students learned how to prototype AI algorithms while reading and writing about philosophy of mind, cognitive science and their limitations. All these activities gave us insight into developing a new certificate program." 

With the new three-year grant, the team plans to implement its curriculum design to create the undergraduate certificate program, including experiential learning for students and online modules for dissemination. 

“This is a very impressive project,” one of the application reviewers commented. “In addressing AI and bringing humanities consideration to future designers and engineers, it not only educates but – without exaggeration – holds the potential to make the future safer and more ethical.”

This project was one of eight that received funding from 41 proposals submitted in its category and part of the National Endowment for the Humanities recent announcement of $24 million in grants for 225 humanities projects across the country.

Megan Patzem