U of A plans 2 new academic programs including degree in AI – Arizona Daily Star

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The University of Arizona will add two academic programs — including a degree in AI — and revise one for fall 2024, pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.

The UA plans to add a bachelor of science in Artificial Intelligence and a bachelor of science in neuroscience. Additionally, the university wants to revise the bachelor of arts in theatre arts to a bachelor of arts in live and screened performance.

According to the proposal, there were several other new academic program requests that the university is not bringing to the board at this time, partially because of the UA’s current $162 million deficit.

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“Given the current financial situation at the university, all new and revised academic programs eligible for submission to the board for approval were reviewed by university leadership to determine their potential cost and benefit to the university at this time,” the proposal says. “The programs submitted have relatively little to no new associated costs due to existing faculty already in place, will generate revenue and are in emerging academic fields where timing is important.”

All academic degree programs go through an intense screening process before being brought to ABOR for approval. The programs must be reviewed and approved by the provost and then approved by curriculum committees in the academic unit, college, graduate college and Faculty Senate.

The proposal is up for approval at the regents’ meeting Thursday, April 18.  

Artificial Intelligence

The new AI program will be housed within the department of computer science if approved. Existing support staff and computer science faculty are set to cover most of the planned teaching.

The proposal states that tuition revenues to the university will “more than cover” the “small costs” of the new program.

“Students pursuing a BS in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will study methods for constructing systems that display intelligent behavior,” the proposal reads. “Modern applications of AI include autonomous vehicles, fraud detection, healthcare, agriculture, personal assistants, epidemiology, gaming, industrial robots and smart appliances.”

The program will provide students a “solid foundation in computer science, and the theoretical background and practical training in AI they need to build systems that transform unstructured data (such as images, video, audio or natural language) and structured data (databases) into decisions.”

According to the proposal, “high school students routinely inquire about pursuing studies in artificial intelligence in our recruitment information sessions” and the university anticipates “robust enrollment and rapid growth” in the major.

Currently, the proposal states, “only a handful of other universities offer full degree programs in AI.” It cited Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University, Illinois Institute of Technology, MIT and Purdue as universities the UA would be competing with.

“This degree would enable the University of Arizona to be at the forefront of an anticipated trend in new AI programs across the nation,” the university wrote.

Neuroscience

The new neuroscience program will be housed in the department of neuroscience and the College of Science. As with the AI program, the university stated in its proposal that “tuition revenues to the university will more than cover” the added “small” costs.

“Earning a degree in neuroscience will prepare students exceptionally well for advanced training in medical school and graduate school in neuroscience or related fields, careers in pharmaceutical, biotech, biomedical or other industries, or for other science-related careers such as public policy, science communication, journalism or patent law,” according to the proposal.

Students under the new program will “gain critical skills in research, critical thinking and communication.”

There will also be “hands-on research opportunities and experiences.”

Though there is already a similar program called Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NSCS), the university states that the new program will be different because it “focuses on the foundations of brain science spanning molecular, genetic and cellular mechanisms of nervous systems.”

The NSCS program, in contrast, requires a common core curriculum including cognitive science courses.

The new program is important, the university stated, because there is a projected growth of up to 38% between 2022 and 2028 of biomedical employment opportunities in the state. This new program, according to the proposal, will produce good job candidates.

Live and screened performance

The bachelor of arts in theatre arts program is evolving from a “theatre-centric curriculum to one that encompasses making theatre (both scripted and devised), as well as screened and media performance,” the university says. 

There will be no financial impact from this change for the next three years, according to the proposal.

The new degree program “better reflects the current industry perspective in which theatre training is a basis (rather than the sum total) of training for careers in theatre, film, television and related media.”

It asks students to imagine themselves as “a maker of stories for both live audiences and every kind of screened environment.”

The proposal cited the fact that “the growth in employment for actors is estimated to be 32% over the next decade. This is roughly four times the growth rate of other professionals.”

There are no other BA programs in Arizona that offer this curriculum. In fact, according to the proposal, “no other peer institution combines live theatre, devised performance and screened performance in the same degree.”

Get your morning recap of today’s local news and read the full stories here: tucne.ws/morning


Reporter Ellie Wolfe covers higher education for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson.com. Contact: [email protected]

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