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Penn to become first Ivy League to offer AI degree, looks to ‘train the leaders’ in emerging fie

An University of Pennsylvania sign is seen in Philadelphia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023.
Matt Rourke
An University of Pennsylvania sign is seen in Philadelphia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2023.

Students at the University of Pennsylvania will be able to earn a degree in artificial intelligence, becoming the first Ivy League school to offer the major.

In a release, UPenn said the “rapid rise of generative AI is transforming virtually every aspect of life,” and the degree program will allow “students to unlock AI’s potential.”

Robert Ghrist, the associate dean of undergraduate education at Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, said it’s important “to get out there and train the people who are going to be the leaders” in the field of AI.

“Everybody’s worried about AI taking jobs away,” Ghrist said. “I’m actually really optimistic that AI is going to lead to a lot of job opportunities and we’re going to need a lot of people who have broad training. And at Penn, being first, we’re looking to train the leaders.”

Ghrist said the program will offer students the foundations to learn the theory of AI, which involves a lot of math and computer classes.

“To understand what ChatGPT and other AIs do, you need a solid understanding of neural networks and network architecture, optimization, dynamics and the principles of data science,” Ghrist said.

Along with those required courses, students will also have to learn the ethics of AI and what it can be used for.

“There’s a couple of different courses that students could choose from ranging from ethical algorithm design to a course that’s taught by the law school,” Ghrist said. “That is the intersection of tech and AI, and legal matters and ethics.”

Students will also be able to build out concentrations in their coursework through the electives they take.

“Maybe they’re really interested in the use of AI in robotics or in health tech or in social systems,” Ghrist said. “We’re building out those concentrations and more as well.”

The Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Artificial Intelligence degree will be offered through Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Classes will be taught at Amy Gutmann Hall, Penn Engineering’s newest building.

The degree program will open to enrollment in the fall of 2024. Current Penn students who want to transfer into the program can apply this spring. Applications for all prospective students will also be open this fall for fall 2025.