A year ago, I spent very little time thinking about artificial intelligence. I’m sure that is true for most of you, too. Now it is something I hear about multiple times each day. It’s hard to think of a new field that has exploded as quickly or one that has such wide-ranging potential impacts, many of which we have yet to fully realize. Higher education, technology, business, art, science—AI touches the full range of human endeavors. 

I’ve had the good fortune to attend and take part in multiple panel discussions on this topic over the past few months, and I am fascinated by AI’s potential to change the world for the better, its potential pitfalls, and the complex ethics surrounding its different uses. It’s already having significant impacts on our campus. I thought you might appreciate a glimpse at some of the ways we are harnessing the powers of AI to advance research, operations, teaching, and learning, and how we’re also working to put up guardrails to prevent its misuse. 

Our research landscape is a good example of an area poised to be revolutionized by machine-learning algorithms and powerful data analytics. Current and emerging AI tools will allow researchers to process large data sets, extract insights from complex systems, and bring new resources to a range of disciplines. Artificial intelligence quite simply has the potential to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and enhance the quality of research outcomes.

We are using generative AI in accounting to support various business and administrative  processes, including the automation of manual, repetitive tasks to increase accuracy and processing speed. It is helping us boost our operational efficiency in areas including billing, housing, scheduling, financial aid, and records.

In the student-learning sphere, faculty and staff quickly recognized generative AI as an educational tool that could help students develop digital literacy, critical thinking, and writing skills. Integration of AI into pedagogies and curricula will advance learning in new ways, improve accessibility in learning environments, and be a tool for personalized learning. The possibilities for integrating AI into teaching and learning are nearly limitless. 

Technology solutions can also be exceptionally important for, and supportive of, students navigating the complexities of educational requirements and processes. AI and other campus database resources have the ability to drive chatbots (we call ours SlugBot) that can help students answer questions and identify resources. As we build out these resources, we can provide quick responses to students for the more easily answered questions and allow our staff—everyone from academic advisers to financial aid counselors—to focus on addressing questions and issues that are more nuanced and complex.

AI is creating numerous new research and career opportunities for our students. Our Computer Science and Engineering Department continues to expand its AI offerings, and we expect to launch an Artificial Intelligence Center in the not-too-distant future. The employment market, meanwhile, is booming for artificial intelligence engineers and programmers, and opportunities extend to every corner of the university as AI and data science affect the discovery of new molecules and galaxies, expand our ability to decode ancient texts and social disparities buried in geographic information systems data, and so much more.

There is, of course, a flip side to AI advances. Technology is a powerful tool, but it can be misused. Academic integrity violations have been steadily increasing over the past decade and grew over 200 percent on our campus during the pandemic. We are now seeing students use artificial intelligence chatbots such as ChatGPT to get sophisticated answers to homework and exam questions. Faculty report growing numbers of cases where assignments appear to have been written by AI or with the assistance of AI. 

While institutions worldwide are facing these problems, UC Santa Cruz is uniquely focused on solutions such as incorporating AI into assignments to teach students how to use it appropriately and reimagining how we address academic integrity by establishing a new campus Academic Integrity Office. The office will keep faculty informed about best practices for promoting academic integrity in the classroom while keeping up with the growing number of technologies that will advance learning but also have the potential to boost incidences of academic misconduct. Together with our Teaching and Learning Center, we are engaging with our Academic Senate to promote syllabus statements regarding the use of AI for each class.

This is an exciting time in higher education. Artificial intelligence is driving our evolution in the same way that the printing press, the exploding availability of books, and the internet did. Yes, its integration into our lives will be challenging at times, and there will be effects we can’t foresee just yet—but the benefits are numerous, and we must embrace them with a distinctly UC Santa Cruz approach focused on innovation and ethics.




Cynthia Larive, Chancellor

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