How do you prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet? UMBC’s Julie Ross, dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology, tackled this question alongside David Kenny, general manager of IBM Watson, during a panel conversation at the Washington Post’s “Transformers” event on May 18, 2016.
The conference brought together leaders in science, business and technology who are “pushing the boundaries of knowledge.” In addition to touching on the recent announcement of a new collaboration between UMBC and IBM, Ross and Kenny explored the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and how to effectively train students to work in AI and similarly fluid, quickly evolving fields.
“There’s only so much as humans that we can take in and process, in terms of information, and make sense of,” said Ross. She suggested that artificial intelligence can help people sift through massive amounts of information to find the patterns that can enable them to keep up with the rapid rate of change in today’s world.
Discussing the need for greater numbers of talented engineers and computer programmers, Ross explains how she particularly enjoys showing students the possibilities for STEM careers and encouraging them to persist in completing STEM degrees. “I get to talk to young people about all of the opportunities that are out there in engineering and the IT world, and try to help them understand what they can do in that space,” she said. “The opportunity right now is limitless.”
Colleges are now working to give students the knowledge they need to be successful in today’s workforce, and also the tools to continue to learn and grow so they can tackle projects that have yet to be imagined, Ross explains. “The challenge for colleges and universities is to really step up and say ‘How do we train students today for those jobs that don’t exist yet, for those areas that we don’t know about yet? How do we get them ready for the thing that’s going to happen in 10 years or 20 years?’”
For Ross, it comes down to problem-solving skills and the ability to work on a team with people of diverse backgrounds. “Those types of skills,” she says, “are always going to be important.”
Read a recap of the event and watch the full panel discussion on The Washington Post (“UMBC Dean: Critical Thinking Never Goes Out of Vogue”). Ross’ remarks are referenced in a recent article in The Washington Post about artificial intelligence.
Image: Julie Ross. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.