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The Wharton Artificial Intelligence for Business initiative aims to inspire teaching and research in the field of artificial intelligence.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

The Wharton School announced in a May 7 press release the launch of the Wharton Artificial Intelligence for Business initiative after receiving a $5 million donation for its creation by two Penn graduates.

The program, which aims to inspire teaching and research in the field of artificial intelligence, will be led by John C. Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business Kartik Hosanagar, and will be a part of the Analytics at Wharton initiative and the school's More Than Ever campaign. Tao Zhang and Selina Chin, 2002 Wharton MBA graduates, contributed the $5 million donation for the program, announced in the press release.

Wharton’s More Than Ever campaign aims to innovatively solve the world's largest challenges within the Penn community.

Hosanagar said the AI for Business initiative will look to produce an expanded AI curriculum, an AI student club, interactive simulations, and access to faculty research and industry contacts.

After teaching OIDD 314: Enabling Technologies, a course which includes four AI-focused lectures, Hosanagar said he saw great student interest in the topic of AI, which prompted him to create a program entirely dedicated to the field. 

An online Artificial Intelligence for Business class that launched in February yielded additionally promising results for such an initiative’s future, Hosanagar said, as he witnessed executive MBA students actively engage with the course material and apply it to their own jobs in the business sector. He said AI for Business will look to expand upon the success of this online course.

Hosanagar said he hopes to implement programs available to all Wharton students, regardless of experience level in both AI and business, and intends to then refine the programs based on student input. 

“[The AI for Business] initiative revolves around having one course success that we’ve launched, and fine-tuning the course for the second year," he said. One of the main principles of the AI for Business program is responding to student opinions on courses.

Rising Wharton sophomore Andrew Spangler and rising Wharton junior Alex Berger, who are both members of the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board, worked with Wharton Management professor Mauro Guillén to create a class supplementary to the AI for Business program that will be taught in the upcoming semester.

The half-credit course, MGMT 198: Managing Disruptive Change: Artificial Intelligence in Business, Finance, & Sustainability, will build upon the fall 2019 cryptocurrency course, and will center on the practical applications of AI in different industries, Spangler said. The topic of the course was dictated by the interests of the student body, as reflected by the Dean's Advisory Board, which follows Hosanagar's vision for the program.

“The vision for the program [MGMT 198: Managing Disruptive Change] is to create a framework in the Wharton curriculum, which can be used each academic year, to allow Wharton to pivot, be agile, and teach students the most thought-provoking and timely topics in business,” Berger said.

Hosanagar said he is hopeful the AI for Business initiative will continue as planned in the fall, despite the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the courses will be compatible with an online or in-person format. He said he feels confident the AI initiative will also spread to other schools in the University, with Wharton being just the beginning.

“AI has obvious ties to Engineering and medicine. I cannot imagine that it will sit in a silo [in Wharton]. It will be connecting students and faculty in all areas, as well.”