USC Invests $1 Billion in New Computing School to Teach Ethical AI Use

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

USC Invests $1 Billion in New Computing School to Teach Ethical AI Use
Evan Xie

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The University of Southern California is keen to begin teaching more students how to responsibly handle artificial intelligence and machine learning, and it just invested $1 billion to expand its curriculum to provide more courses to students both majoring in computer science and interested in learning the basics.

Spearheaded by USC President Carol Folt, the “Frontiers of Computing” initiative and new funding builds on a previous $260 million gift from the Lord Foundation of California that the university received in 2019.

“We like to revolutionize all our curricula, both in engineering as well as outside of engineering, to make sure that our students as they graduate are in full command of all these technologies,” said Yannis Yortsos, dean of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

The specific problems USC’s new school of computing seeks to address are further developing AI and machine learning software, expanding quantum computing capabilities and improving the efficiency and scalability of hardware that underpins this tech.

Part of the funding will add a new School of Advanced Computing to USC’s campus, which will teach students about artificial intelligence, blockchain, data science, machine learning and quantum computing. The new school will also be a hub for research and development in these areas, as well as discussion about how to use these tools ethically.

“Computer science, data sciences and AI have become essentially an extension of the original fundamentals,” Yortsos told dot.LA. “We would like to teach these fundamentals the same way that we teach mathematics. We also like to emphasize the fact that we like our students to understand the ethical consequences of technology, and we want to make sure that our students understand that it's not about technical corporate competence only. It's also the development of trustworthiness.”

The 116,000-square-foot building won’t open until 2024 and is still under construction. When it’s done the entire computer science department will be housed at the new hall.

The new curriculum will benefit “not only engineering students but at the same time students from business or from other [majors] as well, so that's unique about this particular initiative,” Yortsos said.

The new funding will also bolster USC’s footprint in the local economy. Its Viterbi School of Engineering Information Sciences Institute campus is based in Marina del Rey, while the school’s Institute for Creative Technologies – which focuses on mixed reality, body computing and medical virtual reality, among other disciplines – is based in Playa del Rey.

“We will invest a lot in the development of the technology ecosystem on the west side, where we have two major institutions,” Yortsos added.

In 2021, the National Science Foundation reported that over 42% of all higher education degrees statewide are in the fields of science and engineering. Overall, the federal grant administrator pumped over $193.4 million into the state’s STEM education programs in 2022.

USC was the sixth-highest university recipient of NSF funds in California last year after UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Irvine and UC Davis. The private university received 84 grants from the NSF out of more than 260 proposals from the university (to get most grants, colleges have to apply).

This is all to say that USC’s investment reflects a growing, widespread focus on investing more in public and private universities that teach computer science skills to a new generation of workers. In total, USC said it expects to award 1,733 computer science degrees to both undergraduates and graduate students this year, up from 1,400 two years ago.

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Here's What People Are Saying About Day Two of LA Tech Week
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day two of L.A. Tech Week on social:

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LA Tech Week: Technology and Storytelling for Social Good

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Technology and Storytelling for Social Good
Photo taken by Decerry Donato

On Monday, Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization Goldhirsh Foundation hosted the Technology and Storytelling For Social Good panel at Creative Visions studio to kick off LA Tech week.

Tara Roth, president of the foundation, moderated the panel and gathered nonprofit and tech leaders including Paul Lanctot, web developer of The Debt Collective; Alexis Cabrera, executive director of 9 Dots; Sabra Williams, co-founder of Creative Acts; and Laura Gonzalez, senior program manager of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).

Each of the panelists are grantees of Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050, an initiative launched in 2011 that is continuously trying to drive and track progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. Goldhirsh’s vision is to make Los Angeles better for all and in order to achieve their goal, the foundation makes investments into organizations, creates partnerships and utilizes social capital through community events.

The panelists shared how the work they are doing in each of their respective sectors uses technology to solve some of society's most pressing challenges and highlight the importance of tech literacy across every community.

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Here’s What To Do At LA Tech Week

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Here’s What To Do At LA Tech Week
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.


LA Hardtech: Local Talent Meets CEOs: Want to see robots in action? This hardtech event will showcase product demos and feature conversations about all things aircrafts, satellites, electric vehicles, robots and medical devices. June 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in El Segundo.

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