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Nov. 12, 2018

Broad College gifted $1M for endowed professorship in responsible artificial intelligence

Michigan State University announced a $1 million gift to the Eli Broad College of Business from alumnus Manoj Saxena, executive chairman of CognitiveScale and co-founder of the Saxena Family Foundation. The gift will establish the Omura-Saxena Endowed Professorship, a faculty position focused on responsible artificial intelligence, or AI.

The professorship honors Glenn S. Omura, associate professor in the Broad College’s department of marketing and former associate dean for MBA and master’s programs. Omura is recognized for his work on market creation and entrepreneurial marketing, particularly those driven by emerging technologies. The gift will provide business college expertise, along with technology support and internship opportunities.

“Endowed faculty positions guarantee a strong future for Michigan State, and we are honored that Manoj and the Saxena Family Foundation have chosen to come alongside us to advance MSU’s leadership in business ethics related to AI,” said John Engler, MSU interim president. “Their generosity will create extraordinary learning opportunities for students at a time when the impact of artificial intelligence is rapidly permeating into all industries.”

AI is expected to increase the U.S. global gross domestic product by 14 percent, or an additional $15.7 trillion by 2030, making it the greatest commercial opportunity in today’s economy. According to the Saxena Foundation, to avoid unintended consequences that could be harmful to individuals, businesses and society, there must be a workforce with the skills to build and secure, transparent, explainable and accountable AI systems.

“We are deeply grateful to the Saxena Family Foundation for this visionary endowment,” said Sanjay Gupta, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean of the Broad College. “This gift underscores Manoj’s forward-looking commitment to support teaching, and benefits research that recognizes the tremendous importance of digital ethics in an era when AI technology will fundamentally redefine how we learn, work and play. It also jump-starts the ability of the Broad College’s faculty to play a leadership role in this exciting new area to build a better world."

Saxena earned his MBA from MSU in 1991 and has since worked as a serial entrepreneur, an IBM executive, a venture capitalist, a Federal Reserve Board member and a philanthropist. While at IBM, Saxena served as the first general manager of IBM Watson, where his team built the first cognitive systems. Prior to IBM, Saxena successfully founded and sold two venture-backed software companies within a five-year span.

"I am very grateful for the support and education Professor Omura gave me during my time at MSU,” said Saxena, who came to MSU from Hyderabad, India. “There has never been a more important time than now to educate future business leaders on the promise and perils of AI and train them in the ethical choices in this field as it will greatly influence the kind of world we will live in. This gift is just a beginning and it is my family’s hope that this will serve as a seed crystal for growing a world-class program in Responsible AI at MSU’s Broad College of Business," he said.

CognitiveScale, a leader in augmented intelligence and responsible AI, will provide expertise, technology support and internship opportunities to accelerate MSU’s efforts in this area.

"AI will affect every aspect of modern life and it is critical that informed participation in this field expands from technologists to future business leaders and enablers,” said Joydeep Ghosh, chief scientific officer of CognitiveScale. “CognitiveScale, along with Saxena Foundation and other partners, recently took a pledge to positively impact 1 billion lives by 2020 through the application of responsible AI. We are delighted to see Michigan State University take a lead in this area and we look forward to supporting this initiative.”

Omura’s career at MSU has focused on creating and growing markets, entrepreneurial marketing and brand strategy, as well as building immersive learning experiences in the Broad MBA program. As a research institution, the Broad College has earned accolades for instilling an entrepreneurial, global and ethical mindset in its students.

"I am honored that Manoj and the Saxena Family Foundation have chosen to name this professorship after me,” Omura said. "This endowment is timely for MSU’s students as the impact of artificial intelligence permeates into all industries.”

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