Renowned AI expert is keynote speaker at annual engineering and liberal arts symposium

Publication Date

Francesca Rossi, an international expert on generative artificial intelligence, is the keynote speaker at the Robert E. Martinson ’65 Engineering and Liberal Education Symposium.

Rossi’s talk, “Artificial Intelligence: Latest Advances, Ethics Issues and Impact on Education,” is Friday, Sept. 22, from 6 to 7:15 p.m. in the Nott Memorial. She will be introduced by President David R. Harris.


Francesca Rossi, an international expert on generative artificial intelligence, is the keynote speaker at the Robert E. Martinson ’65 Engineering and Liberal Education Symposium.

An IBM fellow and the IBM AI Ethics Global Leader, Rossi is based at the T.J. Watson IBM Research Lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Her research interests focus on artificial intelligence, specifically constraint reasoning, preferences, multi-agent systems, computational social choice and collective decision making. She is also interested in ethical issues in the development and behavior of AI systems, in particular for support systems for group decision making. She has published over 200 scientific articles in journals and conference proceedings, and as book chapters.

She is the president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

The AI revolution, accelerated in part by the launch last year of ChatGPT -- a free tool that lets people enter prompts and receive human-like text in return -- has forced colleges and universities to figure out how to navigate the new technology.

During his Convocation remarks earlier this month, President Harris focused on AI as one of his themes.

Noting closing phrase of the College’s vision statement to develop “every student to lead with wisdom, empathy and courage, in ways large and small, now and across multiple tomorrows,” Harris said Union must lean into the ample opportunities offered by generative AI.

He asserted that Union has positioned itself to thrive in the complex and evolving environment.

“With the combination of liberal arts and computer science and engineering, our students will contemplate the ethics and practical generations of generative AI from a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective while developing the skills expected from future employers,” he said.

The College’s new Templeton Institute, co-led by faculty from engineering and the humanities, will play an integral role in how Union can take advantage of the AI revolution.

The Institute has selected AI as its theme for the year.

As the first liberal arts college to offer engineering in 1845, Union holds a distinctive place in higher education.

This marks the 14th year the College has hosted a two-day symposium on integrating a liberal education with engineering. Most sessions will be held in the Stanley O'Brien '74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement. This year’s theme is “A New Civic Engagement: Risk, Resilience and Empathy for Sustainable Future(s).”

A complete schedule can be found by visiting the symposium website.

More than a dozen schools are represented at the symposium, including Bucknell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Boston College and the University of Connecticut.

“Integration of engineering and the liberal arts has long been a part of the fabric of Union College,” said Jennifer Currey, associate professor of electrical, computer and biomedical engineering and chair of the department.

“As a society, we are dealing with challenges and opportunities that require diverse perspectives. This symposium is an opportunity for faculty to come together to share how we are preparing our students for ever-changing and sustainable futures. We look forward to sharing ideas and continuing to cultivate these communities of learners and educators who are devoted to engineering and liberal education.”

The symposium is funded in part by the Laurence W. Levine ’52 and Barry Traub ’53 Endowed Lecture Fund on the Liberal Arts and Engineering. It is also funded by a gift from Robert E. Martinson ’65.