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USC Initiative to Integrate AI and Digital Literacy Skills for All Students

The University of Southern California (USC), long known for its advances in computer science and as a leading provider of tech talent, has announced a $1 billion-plus initiative called "Frontiers of Computing" to focus on "AI, machine learning and data science, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, gaming, and blockchain," according to a release. The institution called it "the single largest comprehensive academic initiative in the university's history."

The new initiative involves integrating computing skills for all students across all disciplines and programs and includes building a new facility. The effort was seeded by a $260 million gift from the Lord Foundation of California in 2019. Honoring its founder, Thomas Lord, the Computer Science department in USC Viterbi will be named the Thomas Lord Department of Computer Science.

USC's Frontiers of Computing plans include:

  • Housing the USC School of Advanced Computing headquarters in the new 116,000-square-foot center, named the "Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Hall," to open in fall 2024. It is being built at Silicon Beach, on the west side of Los Angeles, near its two current institutes, the Information Sciences Institute and Institute for Creative Technologies;
  • Hiring 30 new computer science and research faculty by 2025 and 60 additional hires by 2030 at multiple schools;
  • Continuing to expand on teaching and furthering discussions about computing technology and AI ethics and responsibility at the recently opened Center for Generative A.I. and Society;
  • Continuing to educate and prepare students for current and future tech careers with new programs, courses, and experiential education, driven by advances in technology, especially in generative AI; and
  • Continuing its economic impact, not only in California, but across the nation, especially on the East Coast.

"I want every student who comes through our programs, whether they are in science, business, the humanities, or the arts, to have a solid grounding in technology and the ethics of the work that they do," said USC President Carol Folt. "We will integrate digital literacy across disciplines to create responsible leaders for the workforce of the future."

According to USC's Frontiers of Computing web page, the initiative will "touch every student in 22 schools": "Because every discipline today requires a level of digital fluency, students in all schools will be exposed to training in data analytics, coding, and ethics, among other topics."

The initiative will start in three key tech areas, the university said: "advancing AI and machine learning software; improving hardware efficiency and scalability; and, in this era of big data, expanding quantum computing."

USC has pioneered breakthroughs in computer science, AI, machine learning, and quantum computing for over 50 years, the school's website said, including "the creation of the domain name system (.com, .net, .edu, etc.), natural language processing that preceded current large language models, and the first quantum computing system at a university and socially assistive robots." The university graduates more than 1,300 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students in computer science each year. To learn more visit its computing page and watch a video about its past, present, and future accomplishments in computing.

Visit the university's About page for more general information.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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