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A Note from the Provost

Image of LSU's iconic Memorial Tower and the Parade Ground's stately oaksCaption: Image of LSU's iconic Memorial Tower and the Parade Ground's stately oaks, generated by Roy Haggerty with OpenAI's DALL-E

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin a new year, with all its excitement and promise, I thought I would take a moment to comment on one of the big trends of 2023 – the advancement of AI – and how I see it being put to work here at LSU. The comments that follow are condensed from some articles that I have published on LinkedIn. I used ChatGPT to take the first crack at condensing the LinkedIn articles, which were written without ChatGPT.

Our theme, "Scholarship First," serves as a reminder that the core mission of this university is academic excellence. To that end, I want to engage with you in a conversation about an increasingly prevalent technological force that, in my view, will transform higher education: Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT. Literally every week there is a new announcement, including a recent announcement (flagged by my colleague, Henry Hays) that OpenAI is launching a commercial version of ChatGPT.

In the realm of higher education, there has been a growing curiosity, perhaps even a fascination, around the potential of AI. However, it is essential to understand that the scope and scale of AI's transformative capabilities will be determined not just by technological advancements but by the rate at which we, human beings, adapt and make use of it.

Universities like LSU that deploy LLMs and other AI first, to improve our own academic output, will be better positioned for the future.

There are three rate-limiting factors affecting AI's adoption within our university. First, there are ethical considerations and concerns about academic integrity. In my conversations with many of you, I sense a palpable hesitancy about deploying AI technologies, stemming partly from justified fears of academic dishonesty. We must develop clear policies around AI's acceptable and unacceptable uses, especially when it comes to intellectual property and creative outputs. In collaboration with Faculty Senate leadership, I am going to convene working groups on instructional uses of AI, research uses of AI, and putting AI to work to manage our day-to-day business.

A second limitation is the availability of skilled users. As I worked to understand the nuances of LLMs over the past months, it became clear that we need to cultivate an ecosystem of skilled AI practitioners. Training sessions and workshops can go a long way in building this expertise. To help with this, I am co-teaching a class in which we will develop and deploy four LLMs, two for LSU use and two for private organizations here in Baton Rouge. My co-instructors, Mr. Henry Hays and Dr. James Ghawaly are real stars in this field. At the end of the semester, we should have 15 to 20 seniors who are well positioned to be employed by LSU or by companies in the area, or to step out on their own to put AI to work here in South Louisiana.

A third limitation, possibly the most challenging, is around data security and data structuring. To effectively integrate LLMs into our day-to-day operations, secure and structured access to institutional data is essential. Developing a robust cybersecurity framework will enable us to leverage AI securely. Structuring our data will allow us to put LLMs to work for us on routine tasks.

To illustrate a little of AI's potential, let's take a look at some practical applications that I have put AI to work on in recent weeks.

  • Strategizing for LSU Goals: With a simple prompt, ChatGPT provided 10 strategies for improving LSU's first-year retention rates.
  • Data Compilation and Analysis: ChatGPT aided me in generating a Python script that downloaded, amalgamated and analyzed LSU’s many policy documents, turning hours of manual work into about 30 minutes of work. I now have the ability to query these documents on any topic I want, and can find where a matter is discussed in a matter of a few seconds.
  • Course Development: It assisted in drafting a syllabus for my 16-week course in LLMs, facilitating the design process. I, of course, had to edit it, along with my colleagues, but it reduced the work significantly.
  • Data Analysis: Techniques like prompt engineering can be learned to make the model more effective in tasks such as data analysis. ChatGPT 4.0 (costs $20/mth) has very powerful data analytics tools. It can look at the structure of an uploaded Excel file, recommend statistical analyses, run the analyses, and provide graphs of the output.
  • Ethical Considerations and Best Practices: The ethical implications of using AI should not be overlooked. For routine tasks like summarizing articles, explicit disclosure may not be necessary, just as you would not normally feel the need to say that you used MS Word or Excel to do a piece of work. However, for creative tasks or original outputs like manuscripts or art, disclosing the use of AI seems more important. The New York Times ran a column on the ethics of LLMs in July, following a question from a reader who had just become a university department chair.

If you are interested in being on one of the working groups I mentioned, please send me a note at provost@lsu.edu and please remind me of your area of expertise.

As we work together to make LSU a leader in higher education, it is crucial that we stay ahead of the technological innovation around us. AI offers us tools to be more efficient, data-driven, and innovative in achieving our mission of academic excellence and positive societal impact. At the same time, we need to ensure that we know the problems and risks of this technology, and that we put it to use ethically.

Let’s make the 2023-2024 academic year a landmark for LSU, one where we embrace the opportunities and challenges that come with adopting artificial intelligence in higher education. Thank you for your work here at LSU. I look forward to working closely with you in the year ahead.

Geaux Tigers!

Roy Haggerty
Executive Vice President & Provost

LinkedIn logoArticle: AI in Higher Education

LinkedIn logoArticle: AI in Higher Education: ChatGPT use cases 


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Click here to learn more and apply to be a Provost's Fellow


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Keynote Address: Neuroimmune Interactions in Acute and Transitional Pain States
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Time: 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.
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