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WSSU receives grant to teach students how to use artificial intelligence responsibly and ethically

Program will host ‘Responsible AI Day’ in April

AI Faculty Group Photo

Winston-Salem State University is taking steps to ensure that students learn how to use artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly and ethically.

More than 200 students are studying various ways to develop and use AI in courses such as art, world films, statistics, chemistry, English, business ethics, and exercise science. WSSU received a Responsible Computing Challenge Grant Award from the Mozilla Foundation for the project, said Dr. Debzani Deb, the project’s principal investigator, RJ Reynolds endowed professor of computer science, and founding director of WSSU’s Center for Applied Data Science (CADS).

The award is administered by CADS, which is leading the effort of integrating active learning course modules on responsible and ethical AI into seven interdisciplinary courses at WSSU during the spring 2024 semester. The goal is to equip WSSU graduates with knowledge of AI ethical guidelines and skills to help them recognize and analyze ethical issues arising from the development and usage of AI in their future careers and daily lives, and to communicate those issues to a wide group of audiences, Deb said.

“Artificial Intelligence technology has played a transformative role in reshaping decision-making processes within businesses and society,” Deb said. “These technologies have impacted our lives significantly. We need them to be fair, responsible, trustworthy, explainable and safe. As a 21st Century workforce, our students need to understand the risks and dangers associated with biased and non-ethical usage of AI technologies and make decisions accordingly in their future careers. This award will help us teach such skills to our students.”

“Our generation is growing up where AI is becoming the norm, whether that be good or bad,” said Danielle Casinillo, an accounting major and a student research assistant working on the project. “Being a part of this project made me acknowledge how AI is used in a broader sense. Upon taking a relevant class, I am now equipped with the ability to confidently be able to point out ethical issues and defend myself. With AI being so easily accessible, it is important we know how to responsibly use it to protect our rights and the rights of others.”

As part of the grant, seven faculty from arts, business, science, and social and health science departments have received “Faculty Adopter Awards.” They each went through training to create contextual modules and deploy them into their courses. The faculty members include Dr. Bao Anh Maddux (mathematics); Dr. Charles Edward Ebert (chemistry); Dr. Flourice W. Richardson (English); Dr. Jeanine Lino S. Couto (world languages and cultures); Dr. Michael Jarrett (exercise physiology); Dr. Scott Betz (arts + visual studies); and Dr. Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi (accounting, economics and finance).

“It’s important to make sure that AI isn’t used as a tool to oppress less powerful groups in society, including underrepresented minorities. These groups can contribute to AI development efforts that ensure AI use benefits everyone,” said Dr. Greg Taylor, co-principal investigator of the project and associate professor of business analytics at WSSU. “This award allows faculty to develop learning modules with guidelines that help students understand ethical issues in their specific fields of study. Better understanding of these issues should lead to more responsible AI use.”

“This novel project has the potential to bring new perspectives to responsibly developing and using AI,” Deb said. “It aims to create awareness among faculty and students, train a diverse group of future AI workforce via relatable and appealing content, and learn from this extensive effort.”

The project team will also articulate challenges, limitations, and future improvements with the aim of broadening this approach across other Historically Black Colleges and Universities and organizing faculty workshops to recruit and train faculties from such institutions.

WSSU will celebrate “Responsible AI Day” on April 19 and will include Winston-Salem government leaders and community members into the discussion, Deb said. More details will follow on the event.

About Responsible Computing Challenge
RCC is a joint initiative between Mozilla, Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and USAID. There were 15 grant awards totaling $2,225,000. Winners were selected by a panel of judges with expertise in the fields of computer science, community development and education. Six of the 15 institutions are Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Hispanic Serving Institutions.


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