Inside the First Bachelor’s in AI at a Christian University

John Brown University will launch the bachelor's program this fall and will offer a flexible artificial intelligence curriculum from a Christian perspective.
portrait of Evan Castillo
Evan Castillo
Read Full Bio


Evan Castillo is a reporter on BestColleges News and wrote for the Daily Tar Heel during his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He's covered topics ranging from climate change to general higher education news, and he is passiona...
Published on March 4, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Darlene Earnest
Darlene Earnest
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
Learn more about our editorial process
Image Credit: Trevor Williams / DigitalVision / Getty Images
  • The program will begin with foundational courses in coding languages. By their junior year, students will begin to take artificial intelligence (AI) courses in machine learning, natural language processing, and more.
  • The program offers three concentrations in programming, engineering, and data analytics and is compatible with an accelerated bachelor's/master's program in cybersecurity and business administration.
  • Justus Selwyn, professor and chair of the computer science department, told BestColleges it will be challenging to integrate faith in artificial intelligence. But adding an ethics course in AI is a first step.

Students who want to study artificial intelligence (AI) from a Christian perspective now have the chance at the first Christian university with a bachelor's degree in AI.

John Brown University (JBU) in Arkansas announced the bachelor's in AI on Feb. 19. The program will begin this fall and integrate artificial intelligence learning with Christian ethics and perspective.

"As we teach algorithms and technologies and coding in the AI major, we also want our students to think from a Christian perspective," Justus Selwyn, professor and chair of the computer science department, told BestColleges.

"Now, they can just think about solving the problem but also keep in mind that the people made in God's image have to be considered firsthand. It's not just that you're providing a solution to a problem. You're providing a solution to people's problems."

Since ChatGPT's launch in November 2022, colleges and universities nationwide have slowly been building bachelor's programs around AI machine learning and applications.

The University of Pennsylvania in February announced it will offer a bachelor of science in engineering in AI starting in fall 2024. Ferris State University in Michigan hosts the only AI bachelor of science program in Michigan, and Arizona State and ChatGPT creator OpenAI partnered to bring custom versions of the tool to enhance student success, research paths, and organizational processes.

Though JBU's program aims to incorporate faith, it's largely similar to other programs like it.

The AI program will begin with a foundational computer science curriculum. Students will study coding languages like Python, C#, and Javascript, and learn web technologies. Starting in their junior year, students will focus on AI machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, and computer vision.

The major will explore AI and business, data analytics, engineering, natural sciences, healthcare, computer science, robotics, manufacturing, and e-governance.

JBU is offering a flexible curriculum where faculty can work with students to help them in their desired direction, Selwyn told BestColleges. The program offers three concentrations in programming, engineering, and data analytics.

The AI degree is also compatible with JBU's accelerated master's program.

The program has students take graduate coursework during their undergraduate studies, allowing them to earn their master's a year after graduating from their bachelor's program. Students can either earn a master of business administration (MBA) or a master's in cybersecurity in five years. Students employed full time can finish their accelerated program online.

Selwyn said it's not new to integrate faith into computer science, cybersecurity, and all other classrooms at JBU.

Selwyn said on top of the usual Christian practices like Scripture reading and devotions in the classroom, JBU will offer an ethics course built specifically for the AI major. The psychology department, not Selwyn, is in charge of the ethics course content.

"It could be a person's data, it could be weather data, so limitless data," Selwyn told BestColleges.

"So when you are handling such volumes of data for your applications, we are going to teach students or make them think in the way that how am I going to handle these data and algorithms effectively in God's way, in a Christian way so that I can honor God and serve people according to the Scriptures."

Selwyn came to JBU in 2021 from India, where he headed the computer science department at a university that already had an AI and machine learning major. When he came to JBU, he saw few U.S. universities offering the major and no Christian universities offering it. So he designed JBU's AI major over the past two years.

"I believe this would be the right time for Christian institutions to come forward to the world to create better Christian graduate students in AI."