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USF among first US colleges with plans for AI, cybersecurity school

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  • | 4:00 p.m. March 21, 2024
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The e-sports lab at USF. The university plans a new college just for high tech.
The e-sports lab at USF. The university plans a new college just for high tech.
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Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity are growing so fast that some colleges and universities are devoting departments and courses to them.

But the University of South Florida says it will create a whole school for AI, cybersecurity and computing.

On Thursday, USF says in a news release it will create a college focused on the rapidly evolving fields of AI, cybersecurity and computing "with the goal of positioning the Tampa Bay region and state of Florida as a national leader."

USF says it is the first university in Florida and among the first in the nation to announce plans to create a college dedicated to AI and cybersecurity.

USF officials say the vision for the college would be to offer undergraduate and graduate programs aligned with USF's strategic plan and the state's "Programs of Strategic Emphasis" to prepare students for high-demand careers.

The school would also empower faculty to conduct innovative research that leads to new discoveries or technological advancements, and it would grow industry partnerships and promote ethical considerations and trust throughout the digital transformation underway in society, the university says.

Research shows that there has been a five-fold increase in the demand for AI skills with jobs in the U.S., while more than 40% of organizations experiencing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals say they are unable to find enough qualified talent, according to USF. A new school could help create new workers. And the creation of a new college would aid USF in its partnerships in AI, cybersecurity and computing, the university says.

USF has the University Community Partnerships office, which has streamlined partnerships with technology companies and defense industries. And at USF, there are approximately 200 faculty members currently engaged in research in related disciplines, which are seeing significant growth in funding awards.

"As AI and cybersecurity quickly evolve, the demand for professionals skilled in these areas continues to grow, along with the need for more research to better understand how to utilize powerful new technologies in ways that improve our society," USF president Rhea Law says in the statement. "Through the expertise of our faculty and our strong partnerships with the business community, the University of South Florida is strategically positioned to be a global leader in these fields."

The formation of a new college is subject to continued consultation with faculty through shared governance processes and approval from the USF Board of Trustees, the university says. USF has 13 existing colleges within the university umbrella.

The University of South Florida says it generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. It has campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, and serves approximately 50,000 students. In 2023, USF became the first public university in Florida in nearly 40 years to be invited to join the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of the leading universities in the United States and Canada.


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