S&T students encouraged to draw their own conclusions about AI, other emerging technologies

Posted by
On February 26, 2024

emerging technologies

A graduate course at Missouri S&T is being taught this semester by a team of working professionals, who examine the impact that emerging technologies like AI are having on nearly every business process. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Rather than teaching the business impact of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and digital transformations as stand-alone topics, an S&T graduate course encourages students to consider an array of sources in forming their own opinion about technologies that promise to change the world.

Dr. Tsangyao Chen, assistant teaching professor of business and information technology, teaches the course, which is usually a research seminar. But this semester the bulk of its content comes from members of the department’s advisory board, who will visit the class to share how emerging technologies are changing how nearly every process, from managing offshore teams to building client relationships to using enterprise resource planning software.

“This class is about the future,” says Chen, who joined the S&T faculty this semester. “A big part of management and leadership is mapping out what the organization is going to do next year and beyond. In this course, students will get insights from working professionals about the influence emerging technologies such as AI and robotics have on organizational planning and strategy.”

Mike Fox is one of those working professionals. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from S&T in 1990, he embarked on a career in business consulting. For the past 12 years, Fox has served as president of S&T’s business and information technology advisory board, a role he relishes for the chance it gives him to help future business and IT professionals learn from his more than three decades of experience advising corporations. He says it’s also a great way to meet promising soon-to-be graduates, many of whom he’s hired.

Like many, Fox believes AI will indeed change the world – eventually. Far from being dismissive, he considers AI’s current status as “more hype than action” as an opportunity for deep discussions about it from an ethics perspective.

“Leaders who are responsible have to step up,” Fox says. “Otherwise, those who are not will.”

He believes that in addition to the benefits that AI may deliver, it also has the potential to create new opportunities for big problems like fraud, misinformation and security breaches.

“My clients know that AI is out there, that it has great promise, but none of us are exactly sure just yet what it is or what it’s capable of,” Fox says. “There’s a lot of interest and engagement, but also a lot of skepticism. I’ve seen lots of proofs of concept regarding how it can be used, but there’s work to be done before we can really take advantage of it.”

Rachel Jung, who was recently promoted to director of strategic partnerships at Brewer Science, is also a member of the advisory board who is lending her professional perspective to the class. She says a big part of her new role is working with companies, government agencies and educational institutions to support collaboration across the semiconductor industry. She believes the impact of AI is inevitable and, like Fox, she believes it’s nowhere near ready for prime time.

“AI will not fix everything,” she says. “We have to be cautious and understand implications the best we can, and with the highest level of integrity possible.”

Jung agreed to be a guest lecturer this semester based in part on her experience teaching an S&T class as an adjunct professor. She also holds an MBA from S&T.

“Teaching is one more way for me to stay connected to students and the university community,” she says.

Both Fox and Jung encourage students — and by default, all of us — to draw their own conclusions about emerging technologies, particularly AI.

“Try one of the free AI platforms just to see what it can be used for,” says Jung. “Look beyond the hype. Differentiate between what’s real today versus what will take industries a while to adopt.”

Fox urges students to do two things. First, include whether a company plans to use AI primarily to bolster its bottom line or for the betterment of humanity as a criteria for deciding which job offer to accept. And secondly, don’t take his word for anything.

“My opinion is not inherently right,” he says. “Broaden your perspective by listening to 10 guest lecturers, then form your own opinion.”

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu

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