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Dr. Jerry Volcy Shares Insights on Everything From the New Wave of AI in Higher Education

February 2024

Jerry VolcyAs part of Spelman College’s celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship this Black History Month, we sat down for a question and answer session with the director of the Innovation Lab, Jerry Volcy, Ph.D., Brown-Simmons Professor, to get his insights on everything from the new wave of AI in higher education to exciting events to look forward to this spring in the Innovation Lab.

1. The Innovation Lab is open to any Spelman student. In what areas do you find students are most interested?

One of the great challenges of the Innovation Lab is responding to the diversity of student interests that present themselves when students are given an uninhibited, judgement-free space in which to create. Student interest spans from publishing, rocketry, kinetic fashion, entrepreneurship and gaming to engineering, art, sustainable solutions, and countless other areas. While only a minority of Spelman students are “technology” students (Computer Science or DDEP students), what we find is that a strong plurality of non-technology students are very interested in leveraging technology as an instrument of creativity, increased productivity or to otherwise enhance their area of study.

2. What would you say are the pros and cons of AI in higher education?

One pro of AI is that, used wisely, it is a basic skill and talent multiplier that empowers students to accomplish far more than what is possible without it and to do so in far less time. The challenge is that multiplication of basic skills is predicated on having acquired basic skills, which AI can hinder without proper guardrails.

3. We were excited to announce the new gaming minor. How is that program going? How are students responding?

The gaming minor is going very well. This semester is the first semester where students were able to consider the minor ahead of class registration. The two minor courses offered this semester (AVC150 – Game Design and Narrative and AVC322 – Game Dev 1) are at or near the physical capacity of the Zynga Gaming Classroom. Several seniors who will not be able to complete the minor are enrolled in these courses simply out of interest.

4. Following the introduction of our new minor in gaming, what is your wishlist for new academic programs out of the Innovation center?

The Innovation Lab is home to two academic minors: Interactive Media and Game Design & Development. There is some overlap between these. At small institutions, these are frequently combined into a single major. We are exploring that possibility. Such a major would service the aforementioned student excitement for using technology as a tool for storytelling and creative expression.

5. Are there any upcoming events, activities or partnerships on the horizon that you're excited about and would like to share? 

There certainly are! We are not yet ready to make any announcements but stay tuned!  Meanwhile, this week is the annual Spelpreneur 10-Day Pitch Competition. The HBCU Game Jam will be hosted again on April 6-7 this year.  And, we are looking to repeat the success of last year’s OceanX Young Explorer Program. This summer, we are looking to expand some of the Innovation Lab programming to K-12 girls.

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