AI for Higher Education - A Model for Innovation

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Artificial Intelligence enables new and powerful tools with the potential to positively impact the student experience. During this session, leaders from Penn State’s Nittany AI Alliance will describe their innovation series and highlight tested strategies to spark and sustain Ai innovation, engage a diverse university community, and work hand-in-hand with industry.


Brad Zdenek is the Innovation Strategist for the Nittany AI Alliance at Penn State, bringing to the team over 20 years of experience in supporting, developing, and leveraging disruptive technologies to improve the student experience across the K-20 spectrum. Prior to joining Penn State, Brad solidified his love of education while teaching middle school social studies in North Carolina. After choosing to pursue his graduate studies, Brad took on a number of roles at Penn State, including directing the professional development and outreach efforts for both the STEMScouts and Regional Educational Laboratory - Mid-Atlantic initiatives, helping K-12 teachers to leverage research-based practices for improving teaching and learning. More recently, Brad served as Innovation Strategist for the Center for Online Innovation in Learning, strategically building and supporting a culture of innovation across the university. Brad is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership at Penn State with research interests that include educational ethics, innovation, and the integration and diffusion of educational technology.
Daren Coudriet has devoted his career to helping organizations leverage and adapt to change created by disruptive technology. As an entrepreneur, he learned that success comes from delivering a differentiated product or service that provides unmatched value to a targeted customer. As an innovator, he helped organizations embrace technology, rethink their business models, and identify opportunities to improve processes, reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Coudriet now serves as the Director of the Nittany AI Alliance ( and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Pennsylvania State University. He is fostering innovation, forming strategic partnerships with industry, and providing students with hands-on experience using artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve real-world problems. In addition to a B.S. in Engineering, Daren’s educational background includes a Master’s in Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from Penn State.

Extended Abstract

The Nittany AI Alliance, a Penn State Outreach initiative, provides students with meaningful engagement opportunities to help them prepare for a future in the AI field. We bring together students, faculty, staff, and industry leaders to address real-world problems, and immerse students in experiential learning projects that make extensive use of cutting-edge AI technology. We are committed to improving the student experience and facilitating innovative collaboration between businesses and top talent at Penn State.

Artificial Intelligence and related technologies present new and powerful tools with the potential to dramatically impact the student experience. The Nittany AI Alliance has identified AI as having a major impact on all dimensions of the education enterprise and its leadership has developed a series of strategies to advance the exploration and application of these technologies to improve the student experience at Penn State and beyond. These strategies focus on three primary domains, 1) engaging students, faculty, and staff in exploring, driving, and developing innovations 2) stimulating innovations applying AI to educational challenges, and 3) pursuing partnerships with industry.

During this session, leaders from the Nittany AI Alliance will detail a unique innovation series they have implemented to both instigate and support AI-powered innovations focused on improving the student experience and contributing to a reduction in both the time and cost to degree. Additionally, core principles underpinning the innovation series will be highlighted, providing attendees with guidance and ideas for developing or augmenting their own innovation efforts.


  1. Welcome and intro (5 minutes)
  2. Context and Overview of Innovation Series (10 minutes)
  3. Discussion of Guiding Principles (5 minutes)
  4. Reflection and Small Group Conversation (10 minutes)
  5. Large Group Conversation (15 minutes)


This session will combine a think-pair-share approach with an online question voting system to facilitate dialogue and provide the opportunity for anonymous questions.