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AI in Higher Education: A Deep Dive at SHSU's September Series


The transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is undeniable. To explore and understand its rapidly evolving influence on higher education, Sam Houston State University (SHSU) dedicated a significant chunk of September to this digital frontier.

At the heart of this focus was the AI Town Hall on September 19th. Taking place in the Lowman Student Center, room 320, and simultaneously reaching out to the broader audience through Blackboard's streaming service, this session was a pivotal moment in SHSU's journey to grasp the vast potential of AI.

Moderated with finesse and expertise by Dr. Aneika Simmons, the hour-long discussion showcased the insights of experts like Dr. Ryan Zapalac, Associate Dean within the College of Health Sciences and a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Dr. Hatem ElshabrawyAssistant Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Jacob SpradlinM.Ed. Director of Online Instructional Development and Support, and Dr. Kenneth E. HendricksonAssociate Provost and Dean of the Graduate and Professional School. They touched upon various topics, from the promise of new tools in Blackboard to the overarching strategy and vision for AI in higher ed.

The Town Hall was not a standalone endeavor. In fact, it was sandwiched between two other significant events. The month began with Conversations with Administrators, paving the way for the Town Hall. Drs. Aneika Simmons and Ryan Zapalac participated in both of these important events. Further, this momentum was carried forward to the grand finale, the Digital Education Summit held on September 22nd. Together, these events underscored SHSU's commitment to being at the forefront of pedagogical transformation informed by advances in AI.

Driving such initiatives requires a collective effort; this series was no exception. Kudos to our sponsors - Academic Affairs, the Academic Integrity Committee, The Graduate and Professional School, and SHSU Online for their unwavering support.

Now, while the conversations around AI were rich and varied, some standout benefits of integrating AI in higher education include:

  • Dr. Zapalac and Dr. Elshabrawy gave us a sneak peek into a new tool on Blackboard entitled “Academic Integrity Instructor Resource Platform.” This tool, focusing on AI, is a handy resource for instructors. For more information about the AIIRP, review the article here.

  • Jacob Spradlin from SHSU Online walked us through the latest in Blackboard. He spotlighted some neat AI tools, including ChatGPT, Claude, Dall-E, and more. To get a detailed look, you can check out the slide show.

  • Dr. Hendrickson zoomed out to discuss the bigger picture: how AI fits into the future of higher education and its policies.

With the September series concluded, SHSU's vision for the future is clear. We aim to keep the AI conversation alive and vibrant. Moreover, it's imperative that our faculty and staff have a voice in this discourse. As we enter this AI-powered era, SHSU is committed to ensuring that our collective opinion shapes our trajectory.

In the words of Dr. Hendrickson, "There's another event slated for the spring to delve even deeper into AI in education." So, as we embark on this enlightening journey, stay curious, stay engaged, and most importantly, stay tuned!