MIT Launches Billion-Dollar AI Intitiative

The Verge: “MIT has announced a $1 billion initiative to … establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT president L. Rafael Reif calls ‘the bilinguals of the future.’ By that, he means students in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history, and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.”

“MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research ‘ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.’ It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to ‘disrupt’.”


Which Majors Pay Off Biggest?

CBS: “A student’s major as well as their college can make a significant impact on their career earnings, according to a new study from compensation site PayScale … Not surprisingly, the top-earning majors are squarely in the STEM-related fields, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students who attend top-ranked schools like Ivy League colleges or those known for particular expertise, such as the U.S. Naval Academy, also tend to earn more than those who matriculate from middle-of-the-pack colleges.”

“But is it important to attend an elite or expensive college? Not necessarily, said Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. For instance, a student who wants to study engineering — already a top-paying field — may not be hampered in her career if she attends a lower-ranked college because engineering skills are in strong demand.”

“As for the old-fashioned liberal arts degree, Frank said there’s still demand for the types of skills that students learn in such majors. ‘It’s about critical thinking and communication skills,’ she said. ‘When we ask employers about skills that are lacking in new college grads … what we hear from employers is often the new hires right out of college are lacking things that you think everyone in college should graduate with, which are communication skills and critical thinking’.”


Goucher Announces ‘Major’ Cutbacks

Baltimore Sun: “Math majors at Goucher College will soon be a thing of the past. Gone, too, will be physics majors, music majors and students in a range of subjects the school is eliminating from its offerings as part of a cost-cutting ‘academic revitalization’ … The liberal arts school in Towson joins a growing number of institutions removing majors such as math and physics to save money. Seven Texas universities began eliminating their physics programs in 2010. The University of the District of Columbia cut 17 degree programs, including physics, five years ago.”

“Liberal arts colleges, in particular, have faced closures and cutbacks … Still, the announcement drew outrage from alumni who majored in the subjects to be eliminated … Other majors to be cut include Russian studies, studio art, theater, religion, elementary education and special education. Minors to be phased out include book studies, German and Judaic studies.”

“At least one new major will be offered, in visual and material culture. Freshmen signed up for the 2018-19 academic year will still be able to enroll in the programs to be eliminated, and courses in math, physics and other subjects will still be offered.”


Ivy League: What Are The Most Popular Majors?

Business Insider: “So what do undergraduates at the eight Ivy League schools like to study? Turns out, it’s surprisingly similar no matter which school they attend. At six of the eight schools, economics is the most popular major among students who graduated in 2016. The most popular major at the two outliers, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, were engineering and finance, respectively.”


Colleges Offer Career Help For Liberal-Arts Majors

US News: “Unlike an undergraduate degree in a technical field such as nursing, engineering or business, liberal arts students tend to be exposed less to direct career messaging within their disciplines, experts say … In recent years, schools have developed courses or programs tailored toward helping these students enter the workforce, college career advisers say, and many of these programs rely heavily on alumni networks.”

“UConn piloted its alumni mentor program for its liberal arts college students, now used by 200 students, almost two years ago. Under the program, upperclassmen self-select an online alumni mentor for career support, asking questions related to internships, resumes or jobs … Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with nearly 2,400 students, offers day trips to major cities for students to network with alumni at their workplaces … For the visit to the Big Apple, students networked with alumni, who worked at several different large companies, such as Deloitte, NBCUniversal and MTV.”

“Programs to enhance the value of a liberal arts discipline aren’t limited to smaller schools. The University of Iowa has been offering these types of courses, which are available to its 23,357 undergraduates, for more than two years … In some of the courses, the UI spokesman says, students learn how to write a resume and develop job interview skills.”


Female Scientists Thrive @ Harvey Mudd

Quartz: “Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, California, has been an outlier in producing female programmers for a decade. This year, for the first time, more women than men graduated with a degree in computer science. Nationally, about 16% of undergraduate computer-science majors are women. At Harvey Mudd, that figure is 55%.”

“It has done it by removing obstacles that have typically barred women—including at the faculty level. The school emphasizes teaching over research, hiring and rewarding professors on the basis of their classroom performance … And it places women in leadership positions throughout the school.”

“The school … redesigned its introductory course, required for all first-year students, to emphasize practical uses for programming and team based-projects, and switched from the Java programming language to Python, which more closely mimics the way humans communicate … To make everyone feel at ease, professors urge know-it-all students who always have their hand in the air to talk during office hours, instead of in class.”

“As a result of the changes, women who take the introductory course are more likely to leave with a positive impression of programming, and often sign up for the second class in the sequence. Many go on to internships or research projects in the field after their first year, and by then, they’re hooked.”


The Journey: How To Go To College

The Washington Post: “The truth is that most new undergraduates are woefully unprepared for the realities of college. The college search that has consumed many of them for the past year — and in some cases, for more than a year — focused largely on where to go to college, not how they should go to college … Even the best freshmen orientation programs often fail to provide students with an adequate road map for navigating the sometimes-treacherous path to graduation.”

“For undergraduates to get off to a good start, there are four critical things they need to do to be sure they eventually make it across the stage at commencement: 1. Engage with faculty … One easy way for students to build a one-on-one relationship with a professor who teaches sometimes hundreds of students in a semester is during office hours. 2. Start early with hands-on experiences … Students can no longer wait for the summer before their senior year to line up their first internship. That now needs to happen during the summer after their freshman year.”

“3. Explore the course catalog … Students should take courses that challenge them to work hard … present them with opportunities to learn from the best professors, and give them a broad foundation across multiple subjects, not just the one within their major. 4. Network with peers. Some of the most important learning that happens in college comes from peers, so students want to be surrounded by people who give them different perspectives on life and careers.”


A Prestige Diploma May Not Yield a Bigger Salary

The Wall Street Journal: “Diplomas from prestigious schools boost future earnings only in certain fields, while in other fields they simply don’t make a difference. Specifically, for business and other liberal-arts majors, the prestige of the school has a major impact on future earnings expectations. But for fields like science, technology, education and math, it largely doesn’t matter whether students go to a prestigious, expensive school or a low-priced one—expected earnings turn out the same. So, families may be wasting money by chasing an expensive diploma in those fields.”

“For potential employers, the skills students learn in these fields appear to trump prestige—possibly because curriculums are relatively standardized and there’s a commonly accepted body of knowledge students must absorb. So, a student may not need to attend the best possible school to ensure a good salary after graduation.”