Daley, who started his new appointment in October, notes that the chief AI officer role is bound to look very different depending on an institution’s structure and needs.
“Some colleges and universities are highly centralized; others, like mine, are fairly decentralized,” Daley says. “What is universally important is to have a very clear understanding of the aspirations and concerns of one’s stakeholders and enough technical acumen to match those to the current and near-future capabilities of technology. AI is already affecting every aspect of our institution, from how we teach to how we do accounting, and so no single person or committee could possibly articulate alone what an AI strategy should encompass.”
What Do Chief AI Officers Do?
There are some key responsibilities that a CAIO will be in charge of no matter the institution, which points to the CAIO soon becoming a crucial member of the modern-day C-suite in higher ed.
According to David Mathison, founder and CEO of the CDO Club and the world’s first CAIO Summit (which took place in December at Northeastern University), a CAIO in higher ed can:
- Ensure student success by driving AI initiatives that provide personalized learning experiences, early intervention systems and support for at-risk students
- Better support faculty and researchers in leveraging AI to advance their work, attract research funding and enhance the institution’s reputation
- Help make data-driven decisions in areas such as enrollment management, resource allocation and academic program planning
- Help the university keep a competitive advantage and attract students, faculty and research partnerships by proactively adopting AI strategies and innovations
- Ensure that the university adheres to ethical guidelines, mitigates bias and maintains transparency in AI applications
- Act as a bridge between academic departments, IT and administration, facilitating collaboration and coordination on AI initiatives
Daley, who served as Western University’s chief digital information officer before becoming CAIO, says this newly created position is all about working together.
“The CAIO is a role where big things can, and should, be done in partnership,” he says. “The CIO/CTO is a key partner for me, in everything from service delivery to thought leadership.”
One major advantage of a university employing a chief artificial intelligence officer? Having a person who can be the single point of accountability for AI transformation and who can support cross-institutional coordination and collaboration, adds Daley.