It was awesome.

Earlier this month, Cornell hosted the first Artificial Intelligence Summit for advancement professionals. Colleagues from up and down the east coast gathered in upstate New York. We spent the day with Cornell faculty and industry leaders. Our collective minds were blown, one session after another.

The morning kicked off with a warm introduction from Cornell’s President. Martha Pollack is an AI scholar herself. She took a moment to geek out about linguistics and machine learning. It was enough to make even the most skeptical attendee think – there must be something here.

Next, we settled in for AI 101 with Professor David Shmoys. He reminded us that we’re at Cornell and any 101 class is more like 1001. He delivered. The stage was set for the rest of the day. After David’s talk, we all had a shared vocabulary to build on discussions as the day rolled along. A key takeaway was the difference between AI and machine learning.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) = machines doing “smart” things
Machine learning = machines taking data and teaching themselves

AI is a broader term. Most of AI interfaces we interact with are sophisticated programs. When referencing machine learning, the program continues to be written by the machine. “Ooooooo,” read in a spooky voice.

Before lunch, which was delicious, we heard from an industry panel. Moderated by Advancement Live’s own Kim Infanti, the panel brought together diverse perspectives. Madeleine Udell spoke about her current work in optimization and machine learning. She knows big data. She was also able to add anecdotes from her time working on the 2008 Obama campaign. Andy Monroe added an entrepreneur’s point of view to the conversation. His spirit is one we need more of in higher ed. And, Michael Greenberg rounded out the panel. He is killing it with machine learning automation and has an advancement background. It was great to have someone on the panel who could translate tech talk to higher ed speak.

Lunch is when brains started to melt and it wasn’t because of the endless choices on the buffet. Adam Martel presented an AI application designed to support gift officers. The tools help with prioritization and communication.

AI is hard to explain.

Thanks to Higher Ed Live, the entire morning and lunch keynote are available on-demand.

Artificial Intelligence 101
Industry Panel
AI Enabled Fundraising

The Summit wrapped up with workshop sessions. Those were not recorded. Sorry, had to be there! You might have missed the start of this conversation, but you don’t have to miss the rest. Follow #AIinAdvancement or join our community on Slack.


Article Author

Ashley Budd

Broadcast Producer, Host of Higher Ed Special Edition
Director of Digital Marketing, Cornell University

Ashley Budd is a digital strategist and designer based in upstate New York. She specializes in bringing offline experiences online. Ashley is director of digital marketing at Cornell University serving Alumni Affairs and Development. Prior to joining the team at Cornell, Ashley spent more than five years in Enrollment Management and Career Services at Rochester Institute of Technology. Ashley speaks about college admissions, digital fundraising, communication and media technologies.


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