Arizona State Debuts AI Business Degree

The W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University will launch a master of science in artificial intelligence in business (MS-AIB) program.
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Published on April 10, 2024
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  • Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business will launch a master's of science in artificial intelligence in business (MS-AIB) program in fall 2024.
  • The program will prepare students to apply and implement AI in their business careers.
  • It will also feature a heavy focus on ethics and privacy.
  • Business demand for AI skills has surged in recent years.

As artificial intelligence (AI) reshapes the business landscape, Arizona State University (ASU) is launching what it calls the first AI graduate degree program from a business school in the U.S.

ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business will launch a master of science in artificial intelligence in business (MS-AIB) program starting in fall 2024, according to a press release.

The Tempe, Arizona, university is uniquely positioned to offer an AI business degree: Earlier this year, it became the first higher education institution to partner with OpenAI, and artificial intelligence has become a focal point across the university.

Daniel Mazzola, a clinical professor in the information systems department at the W.P. Carey School of Business, said in an interview that the school has long embraced AI.

W.P. Carey's scale — including its large enrollment, vast network, and access to resources and talent from across ASU — allows the business school to build on that long-standing knowledge to offer the new graduate business degree, Mazzola said.

"At W.P. Carey, we have the ability to not only use AI but to help transform business," Mazzola told BestColleges. "In fact, the goal of our master of science program is to help enable business transformations in a mindful, ethical way to improve the outcomes of the community."

Preparing Students for a Changing Landscape

Rapid advancements in AI have left businesses scrambling to adopt the ever-advancing technology, and the W.P. Carey MS-AIB degree will help students adapt to that constantly shifting landscape.

"The rate of change is certainly amazing," Mazzola said. "The question is, How do we prepare students to deal with the rate of change?"

The MS-AIB curriculum includes both technical training and business instruction to help students apply artificial intelligence in business settings. Some of the program's courses include AI and data analytics strategy, data and technology governance in business, AI business strategy, enterprise data analytics, and more.

That mix of technical training and strategic decision-making instruction will help students use AI effectively throughout their careers, Mazzola said.

"What we want to do is make sure that the management and the future leaders and the entrepreneurs of the future have the awareness of the transformational powers of artificial intelligence when used for good," he said.

An undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is not required for the MS-AIB program. The program prioritizes candidates who have strong analytical and logical reasoning abilities, as well as those with business acumen and leadership ability.

Mazzola said a STEM background would be useful for the degree but added that the curriculum focuses on using AI to deal with technical problems.

One of the courses, for instance, uses AI to help teach students the coding language Python.

"The idea of memorizing and knowing the arcane syntax is probably not a benefit for a business student," Mazzola said. "What's a benefit is understanding it, having an assistant that can help you with the semicolons, with the curly braces, with the subscript arrays if that's what I need help with."

The degree will prepare students to assess, test, and implement AI across businesses — and will also familiarize them with AI as a tool to aid their work, Mazzola said.

"We want to make sure that you're not necessarily replaced by AI but that it augments your ability to impact the business," he said.

Real-World AI Learning

The MS-AIB is already federally STEM-designated, and Mazzola said feedback from business and industry leaders was key in shaping the curriculum.

"We've had numerous conversations with our Executive Advisory Council, even in our own department," Mazzola said. "They have given guidance as to what their hiring goals are, what kinds of things we've been putting into the program before it even got announced."

AI skills are in high demand from employers.

An overwhelming 93% of employers indicated in a 2023 Access Partnership survey for Amazon Web Services that they expect to use generative AI in the workplace in five years. A recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report showed that prospective graduate business students from across the globe are increasingly interested in AI as well.

The MS-AIB program isn't W.P. Carey's only offering in artificial intelligence.

The school also offers AI concentrations within its master of business administration (MBA) and master of science in information systems management programs. W.P. Carey also offers an artificial intelligence in business certificate that can be transferred toward several master's programs at the school.

The degree builds on ASU's university wide efforts to integrate AI into its curriculum. That includes a partnership with OpenAI announced earlier this year to bring ChatGPT Enterprise to ASU's campus.

"ASU recognizes that augmented and artificial intelligence systems are here to stay, and we are optimistic about their ability to become incredible tools that help students to learn, learn more quickly and understand subjects more thoroughly," ASU President Michael M. Crow said in a press release at the time.

"Our collaboration with OpenAI reflects our philosophy and our commitment to participating directly to the responsible evolution of AI learning technologies."

Creating Ethical Leaders in AI

The W.P. Carey MS-AIB degree includes more than instruction on how to use artificial intelligence in business. Mazzola underscored the importance of "mindfulness" in the MS-AIB curriculum.

A mindful approach to AI at W.P. Carey means understanding the importance of "privacy, ethics, security, and doing good while doing well," Mazzola said.

That also means understanding the biases that can come into play when creating artificial intelligence and implementing it into a business model. The MS-AIB degree will prepare students to think about inclusivity and biases when working with AI.

"If I train a large language model or an artificial intelligence engine to cook, and all I give it are Italian cookbooks, it'll be awesome at making lasagna and ravioli and all of those, but it might not help very much with sushi," Mazzola said.

He added that the current generation of college students puts inclusivity at the forefront.

"This generation has to be one of the innately most inclusive and accommodating generations that I think I've ever seen, and they're always pushing people like me to be more open and more considerate of the needs of others around us," Mazzola said.

The degree will also prepare students for the constantly evolving legal and regulatory landscape of artificial intelligence.

"Being regulatory compliant might not always be enough, right? I mean, that might be the bare minimum that it takes," Mazzola said. "And so we feel that we need to keep on top of all of these regulations and these rules. We should also be participating in the creation, the drafting and making sure that it's appropriate and inclusive."

A growing number of business schools, including the Purdue University Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business and the American University Kogod School of Business, have incorporated STEM topics and AI into their curriculum amid surging demand from businesses. A number of colleges and universities, like the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, have also launched AI graduate degrees.

ASU's MS-AIB degree is unique in that it is a business-specific degree, and Mazzola underscored that the MS-AIB is only one of many steps the W.P. Carey School is taking to be a leader in AI instruction. He said the school also expects to eventually add an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence in business.

"You can anticipate that, in the next year, we'll have an entire portfolio," Mazzola said.