From the Chief Executive Officer | John Taylor, ED.D.
In many ways I am still old school. In fact, I’m confident I’m in the strong minority for still sending a holiday letter to friends and family. And to clarify, it’s a printed document sent via the United States Postal Service. It’s what we did before Facebook to brag about our lives and share accolades about our kids. And typically holiday letters are pretty boring. I try to be creative so it’s not terribly dull, so most years I have a theme. Last year it was the World Cup, in 2020 it was Zoom themed, and one of my favorites was the Alternate Fact edition. Spoiler alert, this year the theme will be based on artificial intelligence, with none other than HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey serving as imaginary author of the letter.
Thinking about this What’s New edition of The Bulletin I thought why not write about artificial intelligence. Of course, the concept of AI and its application is not exactly new. The first spell checkers, which I certainly consider to be in the realm of AI, surfaced in the late 1970s on mainframe computers. Today AI is obviously a lot more advanced, and the near future offers practical applications that most of us can’t even imagine. While I am far from an expert on the topic, I thought it might be interesting to explore how it relates to our work in the college union.
I recently attended a lecture about AI sponsored by Indiana University’s Union Board. It was really interesting, and afterwards I thought it would be fun to use ChatGPT to write a thank you message to Indiana Memorial Union Director Hank Walter.
So the output sounds kind of like a computer, but it was fairly easy to generate. For me, ChatGPT is an idea generator, where you can take or leave the concepts presented and write a message using your own voice. FYI, the message to Hank above is not my voice. The summary though for using similar AI technology is that it’s simply a tool to be intelligently used. Let’s see what ChatGPT suggests when asked ‘How might artificial intelligence be used in a student union on a college campus?’
1. Chatbots for Information and Support:
- Implementing a chatbot on the student union website or a dedicated app can help students find information about events, resources, facilities, and services.
- The chatbot can answer frequently asked questions, guide students to relevant resources, and provide real-time support.
2. Event Planning and Management:
- AI algorithms can assist in analyzing data related to student preferences and engagement, helping the student union plan events that are more likely to be well-received.
- Predictive analytics can be used to estimate attendance, optimize event schedules, and improve resource allocation.
3. Personalized Communication:
- AI can be used to personalize communication with students by analyzing their preferences, behaviors, and engagement history. This can help in tailoring messages about upcoming events, important deadlines, or campus news.
- Automated email campaigns or notifications can be sent to specific groups of students based on their interests.
4. Resource Allocation:
- AI tools can assist in optimizing resource allocation within the student union, such as managing meeting room bookings, equipment usage, and staff scheduling.
- Predictive analytics can be applied to anticipate peak times for certain services and allocate resources accordingly.
5. Feedback Analysis:
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms can analyze feedback from students through surveys, social media, or other channels to gain insights into their satisfaction levels, concerns, and suggestions.
- This information can be valuable for making data-driven decisions and improving services.
6. Financial Management:
- AI can help streamline financial processes within the student union, such as budgeting, expense tracking, and financial forecasting.
- Automated systems can flag anomalies or potential issues, allowing staff to address them proactively.
7. Community Building:
- AI-driven recommendation systems can suggest clubs, events, or activities based on students’ interests, fostering community building and engagement.
- Social network analysis can identify potential collaboration opportunities and help connect students with similar interests.
8. Language Translation Services:
- AI-powered language translation services can facilitate communication among a diverse student population, breaking down language barriers and promoting inclusivity.
9. Security and Surveillance:
- AI-based surveillance systems can enhance campus security by identifying potential security threats or unusual activities and alerting security personnel.
10. Learning and Skill Development:
- Implementing AI-driven platforms for skill development, tutoring, or collaborative learning can support students in their academic pursuits.
Integrating AI into a student union can significantly enhance the overall experience for students, making information more accessible, services more efficient, and communication more personalized. However, it’s important to consider ethical implications, data privacy, and the need for transparent communication when implementing AI technologies on campus.
Not bad ChatGPT. Even without an AI-generated list I am optimistic about the opportunity that exists to harness artificial intelligence tools to enhance our work in college unions. We are of course already using AI to some degree in our unions. Software exists to measure student engagement, event management programs automatically send email notifications, and many of our food operations now use robots to deliver meals. Similar to past instances of technological change we have a choice to deny and push back or accept and embrace new technology. I suggest that as contradictory as it sounds, artificial intelligence is a reality. We should use new technology as it is created to strengthen our role and ability to advance campus community.