Free faculty conference focuses on AI

The Spring Faculty Conference returns next month for the first time since 2018. Faculty Senate president-elect Rahul Parsa led a group over the past few months putting the finishing touches on a timely symposium focused on artificial intelligence (AI) in teaching and research.


Register online for as many sessions as your schedule allows. More information about the keynote speakers and breakout sessions is online.

The conference is planned by the Faculty Senate. It addresses major issues of importance to the faculty and university.  The conference is held every other year, but was interrupted by the pandemic.

The free event on March 21 (9:30 a.m-4:15 p.m., Memorial Union) is structured around three guest keynote speakers who interact with AI in different ways. Several campus experts will lead 20-minute breakout sessions around the keynotes to discuss AI's impact across campus.

"AI is in the room, so let's not think about how it got there, let's think about how we are going to deal with it and what we are going to do with it," Parsa said. "Faculty who are already using AI are going to lead breakout sessions. I wanted to draw from the widest pool of faculty possible and hopefully have something for everyone."

Parsa encourages faculty to register for as many sessions their schedules allow. The day will conclude with a social reception and AI poster session.

"I realize faculty are busy and have classes to teach, but this is important, and they can pick which sessions they can attend," he said.

Breakout topics include the development of an AI minor, students thinking critically about AI and AI in graphic design education. Parsa said the conference offers a chance for faculty who haven't given a lot of thought to AI to see the possibilities and perhaps improve on what they are already doing in the classroom.

"We are here to serve the students, and this is an opportunity to talk about something that is at the forefront. We can take it back to our students so they can benefit from it," he said. "It is about incorporating these things into our curriculum and research so our students and state are better off."

Keynote speakers

Gagan Chopra is an Iowa State graduate who joined Microsoft in 1993 and currently works as a group program manager. He spent his early career in software design engineering before transitioning to a role focused on AI, primarily with the Bing search engine. Chopra will talk about AI's ability to enhance Microsoft's search capabilities for consumers and business and how AI can assist individuals.

Karthik Balakrishnan, also an alumnus, is a senior executive at Principal Financial Group with a Ph.D. in AI. His talk will focus on AI's use in the workplace and how to assemble teams to get the most out of it.

Anjana Susarla is the Omura-Saxena Professor of Responsible AI in the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. She will talk broadly about AI's impacts on research and teaching.