Meet Penn State’s first master’s in artificial intelligence degree graduates

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s new master’s degree that focuses on artificial intelligence and machine learning will see its first graduates when the University holds its fall commencement exercises on Saturday, Dec. 16. 

The first graduates of the program, the Master of Professional Studies in Artificial Intelligence, are two professional engineers, Balsam Hindi and Jasper Short. The degree is offered exclusively online through Penn State World Campus by the Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate and Professional Studies. 

Hindi and Short said they enrolled in the program to learn more about AI to apply it to their jobs, and they are graduating having acquired new skills in large language models, reinforcement learning, AI ethics, data visualization and more. 

“The company I currently work for has started a massive AI initiative, and AI is being sprinkled in to improve everything, even things that do not necessarily have an AI-specific department or product,” said Hindi, a software engineer at a cloud-based software company. “Now I feel like I have a much better understanding of how to implement and apply AI. This is a very well-rounded program.” 

The 33-credit artificial intelligence online master’s program opened in 2022 with a curriculum that focuses on designing, developing and deploying AI and machine learning. Students take courses on topics like natural language processing, AI foundations, ethics, machine vision, deep learning, and more. Students also must complete a capstone course.  

Hindi said she chose this AI degree program because of the comprehensiveness of its courses as well as Penn State’s reputation as a high-quality research institution. She liked that the courses had projects as assignments, similar to her work in engineering. She also enjoyed the data visualization course in which she learned to use the tool Tableau, and she thought the ethics course was important because it provided the foundation to help understand the ethical concerns beyond implementing an algorithm. 

“With the current exponential growth of the AI field in the tech world, I think it's really important that you don't just develop a great AI algorithm,” she said. “You also need to have an ethical understanding of the consequences and nuanced aspects of ethics that exist in AI.” 

The other graduate, Short, works as a research and development engineer for the Penn State Applied Research Lab in Reston, Virginia. He said he enrolled in the master’s degree program to learn how to use AI in his work.  

A project he created in the introduction to AI course — an NBA draft projector — instantly reaffirmed his decision to enroll in the AI program. 

Short and Balsam are collaborating on a project in their capstone course, which is a culminating experience for them to apply what they have learned in the program. They are designing a chatbot with generative AI that future students could use to ask questions about the AI master’s program. 

“Learning about neural networks and natural language processing reinforcement was very helpful in my day-to-day job,” Short said. “Many of the large language models that I learned about for my capstone project I see myself using at the Applied Research Lab.” 

Youakim Badr, the professor in charge of the master’s in AI, said the program’s first graduates are an important milestone, especially at a time of rapid advances in AI technology and surging demand for people with the skills to leverage it. 

“As industries across the globe increasingly integrate AI into their operations, the need for skilled professionals who can design, develop, and manage AI solutions has skyrocketed,” Badr said. “Our Master of Professional Studies in Artificial Intelligence program is meticulously crafted to keep our students at the forefront of the rapidly advancing field of AI. Our students are trained to drive the design, development and deployment of artificial intelligence and machine learning products and services, tackling complex challenges and pushing the boundaries of what's possible.” 

Visit the Penn State World Campus website to learn more about the Master of Professional Studies in Artificial Intelligence program, offered exclusively online. 


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