A photo of a person sitting at a desk with a computer monitor on it. The person is wearing a VR headset.
VCU will introduce minors in practical artificial intelligence and in mixed and immersive reality studies this fall. (Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

VCU launches new minors in artificial intelligence and in mixed and immersive reality

The interdisciplinary minors will be open to all students interested in learning how to use AI and metaverse tools and to thrive in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

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Virginia Commonwealth University is launching two interdisciplinary, future-focused minors this fall in practical artificial intelligence and in mixed and immersive reality studies. The two new minors will let students take classes with faculty experts from a variety of disciplines to examine the applications and ethical implications of these emerging technologies within their chosen fields of study.

VCU’s interdisciplinary studies faculty collaborated with colleagues across the university to make the new minors a reality, in response to the increasing integration of AI and immersive reality technologies in the 21st-century workplace.

“At VCU, we are committed to future-proofing our students by swiftly adapting our curriculum to meet the demands of the AI era. Our two new minors in practical AI and mixed and immersive realities, launching in fall 2024, reflect our dedication to equipping students from all disciplines with the knowledge and skills to leverage AI and metaverse tools effectively,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “These highly innovative programs are designed to empower learners to amplify human creativity and innovation across diverse professional settings, ensuring that our graduates are prepared to lead and thrive in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.”

The interdisciplinary minor in practical AI is tailored to benefit students from diverse academic backgrounds who wish to augment their education with a solid foundation in the uses of and ethical considerations around AI technologies and applications. Whether pursuing careers in health care, education, government, art, business or any other field, students will find this program invaluable in preparing them for the increasingly AI-infused workforce.

“What excites me the most about these minors is their relevance to virtually any student’s path of study at VCU,” said Zach Hilpert, Ph.D., director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. “Emerging technologies like AI and mixed and immersive reality are increasingly affecting the world we see around us; these minors will help VCU students stay ahead of these trends, as practitioners and as pacesetters. We see these minors not just as add-ons for our students’ degrees but rather as enhancements to their career and life preparations.”

The curriculum of the minor in practical AI combines theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, ensuring that students not only understand the fundamental concepts of AI but also gain practical skills in implementing AI solutions. Building on a foundation in STEM and ethical concepts, courses will cover topics such as AI in mass media, the business applications of AI, machine learning and more. 

For students looking to explore the uses of immersive and augmented reality, the interdisciplinary minor in mixed and immersive reality studies provides an exciting and widely applicable overview of these tools, from coding and technological innovation to policy, art and storytelling. 

Coursework in the mixed and immersive reality studies minor focuses on technological systems, design aesthetics, and humanities and social sciences. It is bookended by classes that help students integrate their new knowledge of the subject with their primary field of study/major.

In both minors, students can pick and choose from a variety of relevant courses that allow them to tailor their experience to their own career goals.

“Every student, regardless of technological skill, has a right and responsibility to learn about AI,” said Mariah Crilley, Ph.D., associate professor and associate director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. “We designed this minor so that each student – from the mass communications major who wants to be a journalist to the health services major who wants to work in hospital administration – would have access to the vital skills that will set them apart on the job market.”

Students can also use the AI or mixed and immersive reality minors to build an entirely customized major of their own design through the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program. With this individualized plan of study, students can integrate these new minors with coursework from additional areas of study, minors, certificates and more to create a personalized path to graduation that is aligned with their unique goals, interests and passions.

The minors and courses are now open for fall 2024 enrollment. Interested students can reach out to the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program at bis@vcu.edu for more information or to add either minor to their plan of study.