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Leadership Call: Qualities Chief AI Officers Need

Jun 19, 2024
An AI-generated image of a woman leading her university in strategic AI initiatives.

Hello Academic Leaders,

Universities desperately need to appoint a Chief AI Officer. But that role needs to be developed creatively.

AI touches every aspect of the academy.

To address its issues fully and manage the ongoing impact AI will have, areas that historically have not collaborated well within the academy MUST work together.

Add that requirement to an industry filled with panic and a slow traditional response to change, and most universities are positioned for FAILURE.

Every day, the academy is falling farther behind.

Addressing the challenges of AI starts by appointing an outside-the-box candidate. 

Rather than an IT background, this position should be a generalist. After all, the university already has strong IT professionals.

Rather than a legal professional, this person should work alongside the university legal team.

Rather than sit in the President’s office, counseling senior leadership, this person must engage and prepare faculty to enter the front lines of a new world.

An ideal Chief AI Officer should:

  • come from the faculty
  • answer to the Provost
  • work across disciplines
  • inspire collaboration
  • understand the unique challenges of higher education
  • be innovative and visionary
  • boldly use AI daily

And be able to see the 30,000-foot view while also engaging with daily struggles.

The good news is this person doesn’t have to be the expert. Rather, they should understand enough to bring teams together across disciplines and areas. 

They should be a facilitator, removing barriers and encouraging innovative and thoughtful growth.

They should rely on the experts at the university and provide a strong vision regarding the university’s stance and missional use of AI.

They should be able to create compelling faculty training one day and interact with senior administrators the next.

They should act as teacher, facilitator, communicator, strategist, dreamer, and implementer.

Time is running out, and many are behind the curve. 

A strong AI response demands creativity and the removal of what traditionally was and the willingness to look to what is to come.


Inspiration is everywhere.

Keep discovering. There is always more to learn.

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