Thursday, May 30, 2024

UTSA takes bold steps to add AI to academic landscape

UTSA takes bold steps to add AI to academic landscape

JANUARY 19, 2024 — UTSA today announced a pioneering initiative to reshape its academic landscape with the creation of a new college dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, computing, data science and related disciplines. This initiative aligns with the university's commitment to innovation and academic excellence while also positioning UTSA to lead in the rapidly evolving landscape of advanced technologies.

Nearly 6,000 students are enrolled in AI, cyber, computing and data science-related degree programs at UTSA, reflecting a 31% increase since 2019. UTSA graduated more than 1,000 students in these programs, currently distributed across four colleges, in 2022-2023.

"The convergence of AI, data science, computing and cybersecurity signifies a very forward-looking endeavor as we embrace the fifth industrial revolution, now especially propelled by AI advancements," said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. "These disciplines will remain intertwined for the foreseeable future. With an escalating demand for emerging technologies, their applications, and the demand for a skilled workforce, this new college will greatly accelerate UTSA's economic and workforce impact here in San Antonio, across Texas, and nationally."

“This initiative is driven by our commitment to fostering innovation, advancing research, and delivering educational excellence across related disciplines.”

The proliferation of artificial intelligence applications, in particular, in recent years has contributed to unprecedented advancements across industries including health care, finance, manufacturing and more, as organizations harness the power of AI and machine learning to streamline processes and drive innovation. Amidst the dynamic expansion of AI, as well as data science and cybersecurity, the demand for skilled professionals is reaching unprecedented heights.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there are approximately 3.5 million open positions in cybersecurity and data science globally, highlighting the critical need for expertise in safeguarding digital assets and extracting meaningful insights from vast datasets. In Texas alone, there are over 46,000 job opportunities in these fields, as reported by Cyberseek.

Computerworld's analysis indicates a significant surge in job creation, with an estimated five million roles emerging in 2022, spanning data science, AI/machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, product management, and digital social media. Looking ahead, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 36% increase in data scientist jobs and a 35% increase in cybersecurity jobs nationally over the next decade.

In Texas, the growth trajectory is impressive, with a forecasted 26.5% increase in AI and data science jobs, underscoring the state's pivotal role in shaping the future workforce in these transformative fields.

In an email to UTSA faculty and staff, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Heather Shipley announced the formation of the AI, Cyber, Computing, and Data Science Planning Advisory Task Force to lead a planning exercise to establish the new college. The task force is charged with surveying student interests, regional workforce needs and partnering opportunities; exploring multidisciplinary research opportunities; and recommending a college organizational structure that aligns these programs to enhance student success, career readiness and transdisciplinary research.

Jonathon Halbesleben, dean of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, and Jianwei Niu, interim dean of University College, will serve as task force chairs. School of Data Science Founding Director David Mongeau will guide the external benchmarking and outreach through community charettes with San Antonio stakeholders and the surveying of best practices at peer and aspiring institutions.

Shipley noted that similar initiatives led to the creation of the College for Health, Community and Policy in 2019 and the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design in 2021.

“Ensuring UTSA students are well-prepared for their chosen careers in the dynamic transdisciplinary workforce is our most important responsibility,” Shipley said. “This initiative is driven by our commitment to fostering innovation, advancing research, and delivering educational excellence across related disciplines. More specifically, it seeks to amplify synergies among academic and research domains, fostering the transdisciplinary collaboration that is critical to developing our students’ ability to tackle complex, multifaceted challenges as the future leaders in these fields.”

UTSA has been a trailblazer in the fields of AI, cyber, computing and data science. The School of Data Science, established in 2018, is only school of its kind at a Carnegie R1 U.S. Hispanic Serving Institution. It has achieved significant milestones, including being awarded $1.2 million for student training and research programs, hosting the national Academic Data Science Alliance annual meeting in 2023, and designing a new certificate program in data engineering, which is currently under development and review. San Pedro I, the downtown San Antonio home for the School of Data Science, now is a hub for more than 1,000 students and researchers.

Veronica Salazar, UTSA chief enterprise development officer and senior vice president for business affairs, emphasized the strategic alignment of this initiative with UTSA's investment in downtown San Antonio and the city’s tech corridor.

“Through this initiative, we are not only investing in the intellectual capital of our students but also contributing to the growth and vibrancy of downtown San Antonio,” Salazar said. “This initiative is a testament to UTSA’s dedication to providing a dynamic hub in our city’s core for education, research and engagement, further solidifying our role as a key player in the San Antonio's development."

⇒ Learn more about UTSA’s strategic plan, A Vision for UTSA.
⇒ View UTSA degree programs in AI, cybersecurity, computing and data science.

Task force membership will be announced later this month. The task force is expected to deliver its final report outlining specific recommendations for a new organizational structure to enhance student success, career readiness and transdisciplinary research in June. Discussions with potentially impacted faculty, as well as other campus and external stakeholders, will follow in Fall 2024.

Rebecca Luther

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

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The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.