Ep. 259: AI Education at Dartmouth College

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Professor Dan Rockmore, Director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College, joins the podcast to discuss AI and its implication in modern education. He shares insight into the AI education maturity curve, the role of the academy vs. industry when it comes to artificial intelligence, and the economic reality when industry is willing to pay our AI faculty more than we can. 

The origin story of AI

Backtracking to the Summer of 1956, Dartmouth rolled out a research project on Artificial Intelligence. Some consider this the origin of AI research – where it all began. 

Since then, Dartmouth’s educational role in AI has remained top-notch. AI is spread throughout all of the departments in a way that is relative to most students. They study it in Humanities as well as Applied Sciences.

We like to have our students graduate with an advanced knowledge of AI,” says Professor Rockmore. That means providing students with plenty of opportunities to apply their ideas in research projects and pairing them up with faculty looking for funding for students to work on these projects.

By dispensing students with appropriate training and teaching in AI, they’ll be able to take the next steps in life after graduation confidently. Whether that next step is to continue their education with graduate school or enter the workforce, Dartmouth intends to prepare its students for their best future.

Bumps in the road to optimal AI education

Hiring in the AI space at Dartmouth can be challenging if the salary is the driving factor. Professor Rockmore smooths this out by providing the faculty with the whole package.’ He’s ensuring prospective educators have a career that excites them and fosters continual learning.

Dartmouth has sought to hire great minds to teach AI. According to Rockmore, the professionals Dartmouth seeks to attract tend to be collaborative, energetic, young faculty who are energized by the idea of teaching and interacting with students.

As a bonus, educators can enjoy the freedoms the academy allows. Part of Dartmouth’s mission is to provide extra support to its students and faculty. So if a student is passionate about AI and wants to bring up a new generation, Dartmouth will do all it can to facilitate success. They pride themselves on having a close-knit intellectual community.

When talking about what students in an Ivy League should experience throughout their college career, Professor Lockmore says it’s his opinion that the best educations are broad and vast. He believes that students should sample all the traditional divisions of the academy while focusing on their major. 

Study it all – that’s what a classic liberal arts education model is. By doing so, they’re seeing the world from many different angles. That’s important because when they get out into the real world, they’ll need to rely on those experiences.

Furthermore, the industry is still relying on universities to teach AI. The question is, will there ever be a time when higher education doesn’t move fast enough? Many of these AI industries are evolving incredibly quickly.

Professor Rockmore explains that if we keep training future generations on what is good and honest, higher education will be fine. So do good, and you’ll be what the industry needs when you graduate, he says.

Training these critical thinkers means studying everything for all kinds of purposes; biology, ecology, computer sciences, mathematics, and literature. While most companies are just in it for the money, Dartmouth is in it to improve the world.

Professor Rockmore thinks about the environmental advantages that he can give to his faculty. The ability to work across fields of study, break down boundaries, and ensure their environment is exciting. The next wave of students that filter into higher education will be the next generation of faculty hires. The advantage lies in the power education holds in shaping a generation of people who care about their communities and the planet.

Humankind needs to focus on doing good, and the rest will follow.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Professor Dan Rockmore, Director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College. To hear this episode and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

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