USF Announces Plans to Create Florida’s First AI, Cybersecurity College

The University of South Florida announced plans Thursday to launch the state’s first college of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

The college, which is still subject to approval by the USF Board of Trustees, will offer undergraduate and graduate programs in addition to certifications and continuing education options. It will also bring together existing faculty at the university who conduct research on AI, cyber security and computing.

About 200 USF faculty members are already conducting research in related disciplines, a USF news release said.

The U.S. has “seen a fivefold increase in demand for AI skills,” the release said. He also said that last year the National Science Foundation awarded more than $800 million in AI-related research.

In 2020, the University of Florida announced plans to incorporate AI into every graduate student’s curriculum after a $70 million gift.

“As AI and cybersecurity continue to evolve, the demand for skilled professionals in these fields continues to grow, and more research is needed to understand how to improve our society. ways to harness powerful new technologies,” said USF President Rhea Law. Release. “Through the expertise of our faculty and our strong partnerships with the business community, the University of South Florida is strategically positioned to become a global leader in these fields.”

A task force, including faculty and the provost, was assembled and intended to present a preliminary report. University officials hope to open the college by fall 2025 and are still exploring what the structure might look like, and if a new dean will be needed.

The task force will seek further input from faculty and other stakeholders, the release said.

USF Provost Prasant Mohapatra said the college will work with industry partners in the Tampa Bay area and nationally.

He said the college would start with existing faculty who would likely hold joint appointments in their current colleges. The university plans to begin recruiting soon, with hopes of hiring 20 to 25 new faculty. Eventually, he said, he will launch a capital campaign for a building.

Faculty from different disciplines will be needed to explore questions of how machine learning can impact society. Mahapatra said.

“AI can easily be biased because it’s all about learning from data sets, and the data sets are what’s being fed to us that’s making the decisions,” he said. “The first part is to make the most of AI to help us improve our lives. But on the other hand, we have to be careful about using AI in an ethical way.”

AI, if left unchecked, “could have disastrous consequences,” he added. “So we really need to be very focused that the adversaries, the bad guys, don’t use the same technology that’s benefiting us in a negative way. We really have to protect cyberspace against that.

This is a developing story and may be updated.

Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.

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