Solving for Tomorrow!

Friday, Jan. 5, 2024

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

Here we are, only a week into the new year and things are already different than we thought they would be when the world ushered in the new year from east to west to east last week. The headlines alone tell the story of the pace of events. In fact, I have no recollection of any year in my career that ended as I thought it would at the beginning of that year. No need to repeat the well-worn phrase that “the only constant is change,” but what is changing even faster is the rate of change. In preparation, our strategic plan is well underway, and as a dynamic, living document, it will continue to evolve while serving as our guide to the future.

The strategic plan embodies our North Star goals of increasing enrollment, advancing research, and enhancing our academic reputation by focusing on eight strategic focus areas (SFAs). Each area delineates a specific domain that drives our mission and vision forward. Collectively, the SFAs provide clarity of purpose and guide our resource allocation, efforts and priorities.

Most notably, artificial intelligence, AI, is a common denominator in many of our strategic areas. In academia, like in many other sectors, the rate of change is changing at the speed of AI. Thus, all the ever-present AI questions. Should we fear it? Ignore it? Resist it? Roll with it? Cope with it? Or, alternatively, be a part of creating it?

Here at S&T, as we “Solve for Tomorrow,” our faculty and students are embracing the upcoming and inevitable changes with curiosity and innovation. They are counting on the boundless potential of AI and are shaping the future according to its promise. Our newly established Center for Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems tackles problems that are central to both immediate and long-term priorities of autonomous systems. Our researchers and students are leveraging artificial intelligence to improve efficiency in matching transplant patients with donor kidneys. Students will soon have a physical place in which to easily collaborate when our nearly complete Innovation Lab opens. More broadly, at the confluence of engineering and physical sciences and medicine and life sciences, our collaborators across the University of Missouri System work to “accelerate innovations in precision health” and to “eliminate health care disparities.”

Given that AI is here to stay, and given that its rate of progress will not slow down anytime soon, we, as an educational and scientific community, must embrace it and partner with the world to develop the needed fundamental research, architecture, hardware and software, design, and human interaction, along with all other relevant interfaces vital to its development. After all, it’s a tool that augments intelligence and, when properly and ethically developed, will lead to unexplored territories and exciting discoveries that will fuel innovation. 

Reflecting on the past, many of us remember how computers were going to end the world 20 years ago! Today, it is virtually impossible to imagine a world without the valuable benefits of the computational networks that serve as our society’s central nervous system.

Clearly, if technological innovations of past are prologue, AI will develop, will be implemented, and will enhance our lives, in ways that we cannot imagine today. And more than ever, the AI journey in the coming year will be nonlinear and will be measured in terms of milestones and achievements. And we will miss out on the fun of “Solving for Tomorrow” if we let fear prevent us from planning for success!



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
Chancellor | 573-341-4116

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