Colby College has hired a language processing expert to lead its newly formed Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Amanda Stent, considered one of the country’s leading authorities on natural language processing – which gives computers the ability to understand human text and spoken words – will start in October.

Amanda Stent Photo courtesy Colby College

Stent most recently served as the natural language processing architect at Bloomberg L.P., where she led the People and Language AI Team. Stent has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers on natural language processing and is a regular speaker on the subject. She was also involved in the CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes) project that led to a range of AI applications, including the well-known virtual assistant Siri.

“Amanda is the ideal person to build and lead the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence,” Colby College President David A. Greene said in a statement. “She is in the midst of a distinguished career overseeing large, complex teams of scientists, developing new technologies, and addressing algorithmic bias in machine learning. But she is a teacher and researcher at heart. Our students, faculty and visitors to the Davis Institute will benefit from the clarity of her thinking, the depth of her knowledge, and the generosity of her spirit.”

In January, Colby announced it had received a $30 million gift from the Davis family and charitable foundation trustee Andrew Davis, Colby Class of 1985, to support the AI institute. The Davis family donated $25 million in 2017 to create DavisConnects, a post-graduate professional-based initiative, and a $10 million gift in 2013 to construct the Davis Science Center.

“Addressing the complex questions surrounding AI requires a holistic analysis and response that can only come from a broad liberal arts perspective,” Andrew Davis said in a news release after the January gift was announced.

Colby would be remiss if it didn’t have a program in place to educate students about the challenges and possibilities that AI will offer in the years ahead, Greene said in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

“It’s very powerful and it’s already here. It is changing our lives in ways that we see and in ways we don’t see,” Greene said. “AI will continue to be ubiquitous in our lives.”

Greene said some faculty have already been hired, and the institute will begin offering courses next week. More than 20 courses and classes extending across several departments have been retooled to include AI components, ranging from economic forecasting and linguistics to art and mathematics, according to a Colby news release.

Greene expects that nearly every student will be involved in AI education programs during their four years at Colby. Whether the school will offer an AI major has yet to be decided.

“The mission of Colby’s Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence is to use AI creatively, while also preparing future leaders to predict and understand its impact, so negative impacts are mitigated and positive impacts are reinforced,” Stent said in a statement.

Colby plans to create a summer program at the institute for visiting faculty and students to work on AI projects. Participants will be able to develop courses and research projects that can be shared at their home institutions, making the Davis Institute a national center for training faculty and students in the use of AI.

Colby is the first small liberal arts college in the United States to create an AI institute, Greene said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: