A robotic Gator and an angelic Gator pose in the clouds.

Upgrade your semester with AI courses at Warrington

There’s a buzz on the University of Florida’s campus. Sitting in classrooms or walking across the Plaza of the Americas, you’ll hear students talking about “the AI school.”

The term isn’t just in reference to Malachowsky Hall, a newly opened building on UF’s campus dedicated to data science and information technology, or even the university’s HiPerGator supercomputer, which ranks 3rd among university supercomputers in the nation.

When students call UF the AI school, they’re talking about UF’s initiative to prepare its students for the rapidly advancing technology that is transforming every industry – Artificial Intelligence. This year, the university is offering hundreds of courses incorporating AI into each area of study. The Warrington College of Business is a leader in this initiative, offering dozens of AI-related courses to business students in the Spring 2024 semester.

Faculty at the business school are using their extensive backgrounds in AI, analytics and research to give students an edge, equipping them with the knowledge and experience to become leaders in their own fields.

“I can’t imagine a world where a UF business graduate won’t be affected by or asked to use or interpret outputs from AI,” said Jim Hoover, director of the Business Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Center. “UF Business Gators need to be ready to ‘go beyond the spreadsheet’ and interact with and use AI.”

Diving into AI can be intimidating, but students shouldn’t let that stop them, Hoover said. Instructors understand the concern and have adapted courses to make sure students can catch on quickly. A good starting point for undergraduate students in the Spring semester is Foundations of Business Analytics & Artificial Intelligence (QMB3302), which introduces AI and Python programming and opens students’ minds to how AI can affect different domains in business.

“Expect that you will be tasked with understanding and using AI the first day that you enter your new job,” he advised. “Also expect that you will need to be able to assess if the AI is effective and providing reliable answers to the problems that business is trying to solve. If you are ready to do this, you will stand out among your peers at work.”

Hoover is teaching four graduate-level AI courses in the spring, focusing on how AI can be used in marketing and analytics. His course materials show students how they can work hand-in-hand with AI, cultivating a symbiotic relationship where one helps the other to achieve goals with efficiency and accuracy:

  • Marketing Analytics (MAR6668)
  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Models with Marketing Applications (MAR6930)
  • Analytics Practicum II (QMB6943)
  • Analytics Practicum III (QMB6944)

While Hoover’s course on AI in marketing is only available to graduate students, Valeria Marcia, a lecturer  at the Warrington College of Business, offers an undergraduate course exploring this topic: Digital Marketing (MAR4933). Using Python to improve and innovate within digital marketing realms, students will develop marketing strategies that are enhanced by AI and machine learning. For the coming semester, she’s updated the course to become a training ground for the National Collegiate Digital Marketing Competition, an annual event held in Texas that gives students the opportunity to land digital marketing jobs in addition to competing for prizes.

“Educating [students] about AI is truly exciting because it’s like giving students a key to the future,” she said. “It’s not just about algorithms and coding; it’s about encouraging a new way of thinking. AI education unlocks creative problem-solving skills that students can apply in various fields.

“It’s empowering to see students engage with AI, not only as users but as innovators who will drive forward the technologies that will shape our future.”

Weighing her excitement for AI potential in industry and education, Marcia also keeps in mind the risks of an increasingly autonomous technology. Before becoming a lecturer at the Warrington College of Business, she specialized as a lawyer in the intersection of law and technology. Ethical violations and managing privacy concerns are issues she observes, and she’s not the only one keeping vigilance.

Heng Xu, a Professor of Management and co-director of the Center for AI Ethics, Cyber Governance and Privacy Management, is teaching Warrington’s first cybersecurity course in the spring: Cyber & AI Governance in Business (MAN6930). Designed for non-technical MBA and graduate studies, the course instructs students on the structures, policies and processes used by organizations to ensure they are using cyber technologies and AI responsibly.

“Our current focus on AI education has been heavily aligned with the bright side of AI, demonstrating how AI creates new business values, accelerates scientific discovery and innovation and brings about positive social changes,” she warns. “Yet, if not used responsibly, the same technology could misguide policies, reinforce inequality, limit accountability and infringe on the privacy of individuals. To me, it’s critically important to balance optimism about what AI can achieve with a realistic understanding of its limitations and challenges.

“This balanced view helps in setting achievable goals and expectations.”

With 17+ years of scientific and leadership experience in AI and data analytics, Xu focuses her current research on redefining corporate social responsibility in the AI era, involving AI governance, privacy protection, data ethics and fairness in machine learning. Her work has been used by the White House to create national strategies for safeguarding privacy in an interconnected digital era. The transformative power of AI is akin to the revolution brought about by electricity, she says, highlighting the importance of AI education.

Also in the coming semester, PricewaterhouseCoopers ISOM Professor Liangfei Qiu will be teaching Data Analysis and Decision Support (ISM6423), in which students will master the essentials of data analysis while exploring the dynamic relationship between data and the real world.

“Businesses today generate and accumulate massive amounts of data,” he explained. “An AI course provides you with the skills to transform this data into actionable intelligence. You’ll learn how to use AI techniques to extract valuable insights that can inform strategic decisions.

“Completing an AI course enhances your marketability and opens up diverse career opportunities. Whether you aspire to work in finance, marketing or information systems, AI skills are increasingly sought after across industries.”

Qiu is another of the many faculty at the Warrington College of Business committed to staying at the forefront of AI technologies. Through their courses, students are being empowered to shape the world as it advances with technology, graduating with the knowledge and experience necessary to work with AI’s increasing relevance across industries. Thus equipped, Business Gators are paving the way for long-term goals that benefit their companies and the communities they serve.

Learn more about Analytics and AI at the Warrington College of Business.