Institution Wide AI Integration Strategy: Future Proof College Like MDC:

Changing Higher Ed podcast 215 with host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and guest Madeline Pumariega

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Changing Higher Podcast 215 - Institution Wide AI Integration Strategy-Future Proof College Like MDC with host Dr. Drumm McNaughton and guest Madeline Pumariega
Changing Higher Ed Podcast | Drumm McNaughton | The Change Leader

July 9, 2024 · Episode 215

Institution Wide AI Integration Strategy: Future Proof College Like MDC

40 Min · By The Change Leader, Inc.

Miami Dade College President Madeline Pumariega shares their strategy for large scale AI integration across their institution. Discover their blueprint.


Higher education institutions that fail to integrate AI into their ecosystem are not just falling behind—they’re undermining their institution and their students’ futures. The reluctance to embrace AI isn’t just short-sighted; it’s a disservice to the very mission of education in the 21st century.


An AI integration strategy isn’t just about preparing students—it’s about transforming entire institutions. Colleges that fully embrace AI can revolutionize their operations, from personalized learning experiences to streamlined administrative processes. Miami Dade College’s comprehensive AI strategy demonstrates how institutions can leverage this technology to create a more responsive, data-driven educational ecosystem that benefits students, faculty, employers, and administrators alike.


Under President Madeline Pumariega’s leadership, Miami Dade College (MDC)—serving 125,000 students from 167 countries speaking 63 languages—has pioneered a large-scale institution-wide approach to AI integration. Their approach offers valuable insights for colleges seeking to strategically harness AI’s full potential to future-proof their institution and the future of their students. 


Embracing AI: MDC’s Comprehensive Approach

We decided that it wasn’t just about having AI as a major in our technology division; we wanted to see AI across disciplines. It started with, ‘AI is going to change the way that we work, the way that we learn, the way that we travel, the way that we do everything.❞ ~Madeline Pumariega


Miami Dade College’s journey with AI began in earnest in 2021 when Pumariega set “reimagining the student experience” as a key strategic priority. Recognizing the growing influence of personalized technology platforms like Uber in students’ daily lives, MDC sought to bring that level of personalization to education through AI.


By fall 2021, MDC had launched an extensive AI training program for faculty, with 500 participants in its initial workshops. Building on this momentum, in 2022, the college introduced the President’s Innovation Awards—$10,000 grants for faculty members proposing innovative ways to use AI to enhance student outcomes and learning experiences.


MDC’s commitment to AI education culminated in a partnership with IBM to launch the “AI for All” program. This collaboration brought together industry experts from IBM and MDC faculty to develop a comprehensive AI curriculum. The result? MDC became the first institution in Florida to offer both Associate (AA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in AI.


The AA program launched with 750 students, has seen remarkable success. The BS program is set to commence in the fall of 2024, creating a complete educational pathway in AI. Notably, the average age of students in these programs is 35-40, indicating strong interest from working professionals seeking to upskill or change careers.


Personalizing Education Through AI

MDC’s approach to AI goes beyond dedicated degree programs. The college is leveraging AI to create personalized learning experiences across all disciplines. By integrating AI-powered analytics with their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Student Information Systems, MDC aims to deliver targeted communications and support to students based on their academic progress, interests, and career goals.


For instance, the system can identify a business administration major who has completed four accounting courses and match them with relevant internship opportunities at accounting firms. This level of personalization not only enhances the student experience but also improves retention rates and career outcomes.


Enhancing Institutional Efficiency

MDC’s AI integration extends to improving operational efficiency. The college is using AI in facilities management to predict maintenance needs for HVAC systems, reducing reactive repairs and associated costs. In academic planning, AI is being employed to optimize course scheduling, ensuring classes are offered at times and in modalities that best meet student needs.


These AI applications are already showing results, helping Miami Dade do more with limited resources, which is a crucial consideration for all higher education institutions facing budget constraints.


Preparing Students for an AI-Driven Workforce

Miami Dade’s AI programs are designed with stackable credentials, allowing students to build their skills progressively. This approach provides multiple entry and exit points, catering to diverse student needs and aligning with the Florida state program that incentivizes colleges for industry certifications that match workforce demands and offer wage premiums.


The college’s strategy goes beyond dedicated AI programs. MDC is integrating AI concepts across disciplines, from nursing and education to architecture and business. For example, architecture students recently used AI to design a museum focused on victims of communism, demonstrating how AI can enhance creative processes across fields.


Addressing AI’s Ethical Concerns Head-On

One of the most significant aspects of MDC’s AI strategy is its proactive approach to ethical concerns. Instead of banning AI tools like ChatGPT, as some institutions have done, MDC has made ethics a cornerstone of its AI curriculum. The first course in their AI program focuses on ethics, ensuring students understand the responsible use of AI from the outset.


Pumariega draws an insightful parallel between the adoption of AI and previous technological advancements, such as encyclopedias and the internet. She notes, “You know, the AI platforms like ChatGPT, the generative open AI platforms, are going to be just like we evolved from Britannica Encyclopedia to internet searches, to now a synthesized internet search in a ChatGPT.”


This perspective encourages viewing AI not as a threat to academic integrity but as the next step in the evolution of information access and processing. MDC is rethinking assessment methods in light of AI technologies. The focus is on teaching critical thinking skills and the ability to validate and contextualize AI-generated information rather than trying to prevent students from using AI tools.


Pumariega emphasizes that higher education’s role is not just to impart information but to teach the application of knowledge. She argues that if information has been democratized through AI, educational institutions must shift their focus to ensuring students can apply that information critically and ethically.


MDC is also addressing concerns about plagiarism and academic dishonesty by teaching students how to properly cite AI-generated content and emphasizing the importance of original thought and analysis. The college is working on developing new assessment methods that test students’ ability to apply knowledge and think critically rather than simply regurgitate information that could be easily obtained from AI tools.


Fostering Industry Collaboration for AI Integration

Miami Dade College’s success in implementing AI programs is largely due to its strong partnerships with industry leaders. The college has established advisory councils composed of industry experts who provide insights on current trends, emerging technologies, and skill requirements. These partnerships ensure MDC’s programs remain relevant and aligned with workforce needs.


The college also hosts speaker series’ featuring industry leaders like Marcelo Claure (formerly with SoftBank) and Rony Abovitz (from Magic Leap), providing students with insights from the forefront of technological innovation.


Investing in Faculty Development

MDC’s approach to AI integration places a strong emphasis on faculty development. In addition to the initial workshops, the college continues to offer professional development opportunities focused on AI. The President’s Innovation Awards have incentivized faculty to explore innovative ways to incorporate AI into their teaching.


This investment in faculty development has been crucial in overcoming initial skepticism and resistance. By providing resources and incentives, MDC has fostered a culture of innovation and continuous learning among its faculty.


Engaging the Community

MDC’s AI initiative extends beyond its campus boundaries. The college has established AI Institutes across its campuses, serving as hubs for innovation, research, and community engagement. The first institute opened at the North Campus, with additional centers at the Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami and the southern part of the county.


These institutes host speaker series, workshops, and other events that bring together students, faculty, industry professionals, and community members. This outreach strategy positions MDC as a leader in AI education and innovation while fulfilling its role as a community resource.


Overcoming Implementation Challenges

While the benefits of AI in higher education are clear, implementation is not without challenges. One significant hurdle is the current pricing model of many AI platforms, which is often based on consumption rather than a fixed cost. Pumariega notes that this model can be unsustainable for educational institutions with limited budgets.


However, MDC’s experience shows that these challenges can be overcome through strategic planning and phased implementation. The college started with faculty training and small-scale projects before expanding to full-degree programs and institution-wide AI integration.


Three Key Takeaways for Higher Ed Presidents and Boards

  1. Embrace AI as a strategic priority: Make AI a core part of your institution’s strategic plan. Invest in AI infrastructure, education programs, and faculty development to position your institution as a leader in this critical field.

  2. Foster interdisciplinary AI integration: Encourage and support the integration of AI across all disciplines to prepare students for the AI-driven future of work in their respective fields.

  3. Address ethical concerns proactively: Make ethics a central component of AI education and develop new assessment methods that emphasize critical thinking and the ethical application of AI-generated information.

The Future of Higher Education is AI-Enabled

Miami Dade College’s comprehensive approach to AI integration—from dedicated degree programs to institution-wide operational improvements—provides a blueprint for transformative change in higher education. This model demonstrates how AI can revolutionize not just what we teach but how we teach and operate.


By fully embracing AI, institutions can create educational experiences that are more personalized, efficient, and aligned with the demands of the global workforce. The potential of AI extends beyond mere technological adoption—it offers a pathway to reimagine the very essence of higher education.


The institutions that act decisively now to integrate AI into their core operations and curricula will set the standard for 21st-century education. These pioneers will not only attract forward-thinking students and faculty but will also forge stronger connections with industry, potentially unlocking new funding streams and research opportunities.


The true measure of an institution’s success will be its ability to produce graduates who are not just consumers of AI technology but innovative creators and ethical appliers of AI solutions across all disciplines.


About Our Podcast Guest

Madeline Pumariega is the first female president appointed to lead one of the nation’s largest educational institutions, Miami Dade College (MDC). Adding to the historic nature of this appointment is the fact that Pumariega is an alumna of MDC.

Prior to becoming MDC’s president, Pumariega was appointed the first female and Hispanic chancellor of the Florida College System (FCS). In that role, she designed and implemented strategies to keep college accessible and affordable for Floridians, especially for those entering high-demand job fields. In 2019, Pumariega became the executive vice president and provost of Tallahassee Community College. 

In her current role as President, Pumariega has prioritized working with business partners to identify the skills needed by key industries and tailoring higher education programs to match those needs. This intentional forming of strategic alliances and job pathways between companies and MDC students accelerates each graduate’s ability to enter the workforce immediately. Driving her relentless pursuit is the passion to develop leaders and build thriving communities.

Guest’s LinkedIn Profile →


About the Host

Dr. Drumm McNaughton is a consultant to higher education institutions in governance, accreditation, strategic planning, change management, and mergers.


Podcast 214 – Institution-Wide AI Integration Strategy: Future Proof College Like MDC with Madeline Pumariega

Introduction to Madeline Pumariega and Miami Dade College

Drumm McNaughton: Thank you, David. Our guest today is Madeline Pumariega, President of Miami Dade College. For those of you who don’t know Miami Dade, it’s an innovation powerhouse, enrolling over 125,000 students and creating new pathways for first-generation and low-SES students. In fact, the average age of their student is about 45 years old.

In her current role as president, Madeline has prioritized working with business partners to identify the skills needed by key industries and tailoring higher education programs to match those needs. This intentional forming of strategic alliances and job pathways between companies and MDC students accelerates each graduate’s ability to enter the workforce immediately.

Driving her relentless pursuit is the passion to develop leaders and build thriving communities. Madeline herself is a first gen student and she joins us today to talk about how MDC has embraced AI and how you too can help your institution use AI as a tool instead of blocking its use.

Madeline, welcome back to the show.

Madeline Pumariega: I’m so glad to be back. Thank you for having me.

Drumm McNaughton: It’s my pleasure, I am so much looking forward to this. On our first time together we chatted a little bit about AI and it got me intrigued about all the great things you’re doing at Miami Dade College.

Madeline’s Background and Journey

Drumm McNaughton: Before we get into that would you give our listeners just a little bit of background about you because you have a fascinating background.

Madeline Pumariega: I sure will. I’m the president of Miami Dade College. Miami Dade College is one of the largest community colleges in the country serving 125, 000 students, 167 different countries, and 63 languages spoken here. But what’s really special is that I started as a student at Miami Dade College, I was a student athlete and I attended then Miami Dade Community College on a, women’s basketball scholarship and played, basketball here at Miami Dade College.

I returned back to the college and spent 20 years as an advisor, assistant coach, a dean and a campus president. And then I left to serve the state in the capacity of chancellor of the Florida College System that oversees the 28 colleges, just like Miami Dade College, there’s 27 other state colleges that serve the state of Florida.

And so I’m privileged to come back home. I was born and raised in Miami, in a city called Hialeah, where lots of individuals like my parents, who came from Cuba, fleeing communism, got their start in the American dream. I grew up in humble beginnings with parents who were working hard in factories. my mom started out as a factory worker and then went back to college. She was able to get her Education Degree and served as a teacher in Miami Dade County public schools for 35 years. And my dad started out at Winn Dixie and then had a great career as a leader at a bank, a vice president at a local community bank here.

Certainly I reflect the students we serve today. So many are still first in their family to go to college and are seeking, through the power of education, the way that they can be successful in life and give back.

Drumm McNaughton: That is a fascinating story, and knowing you as I do, I would have to say that background really has influenced, not only what you’ve done in higher ed, but more importantly, who you are for your staff, your students, your faculty, all of these folks.

Madeline Pumariega: Absolutely.

Leadership Philosophy and Student-Centric Approach

Madeline Pumariega: I think one of the things that’s always important is never forget where you came from. And so a lot of my leadership, I think, is influenced by my upbringing. I think it’s influenced by my sports background, to always work as a team, together. And I think the third that really centers my leadership is that it’s about the students. That students come first and that we should always ask the question, how does this help our students, and how can we better serve and support our students? And we do that because we have an amazing team of dedicated faculty and staff.

Drumm McNaughton: It reminds me of a, a colleague of mine who said, “when you’re making contingency plans or communication plans or emergency plans, you have to think about the action that you’re taking, but you also have to think two or three steps down the line, that secondary thinking”, and that’s what you’re talking about.

Madeline Pumariega: Absolutely. I love the analogy of basketball. I always get asked how basketball influences? And I love football, I’m a big football fan, college football, NFL, after you run a play in a football game, you come back to the huddle, you reassess and you set the next play in basketball that really doesn’t happen.

You have the best play that you might have called and at half court, there’s another defense, something happens and you’ve got to improvise and make the best play possible in a split second to be able to score.

Drumm McNaughton: You’ve got a call an audible as you’re running down the court. It’s just like trying, in higher ed, right now we’re trying to change the spark plugs of our cars we’re going sixty miles an hour down the freeway

Madeline Pumariega: Correct.

AI Integration at Miami Dade College

Drumm McNaughton: And AI, thank you for that segway, AI is something that you’re doing at MDC and it gives you that ability to change plays immediately. How did you get interested in AI? I know when you took over the presidency at MDC in 2020, you wanted to reimagine the student journey with personalized education for all. Tell us a little bit how you discovered AI or how you decided to get into it because I think that’s really important for our listeners.

Madeline Pumariega: When I became president, it was January of 2021. We were certainly facing, like many open access institutions across the country, enrollment declines because of the pandemic. People had either, they were working in essential positions, they were taking care of loved ones, and so we were really looking at how could we set the strategic priorities for the college?

And the first one we set was reimagining the student experience. It’s clear that today, the way that students are interacting with higher education is very different. Because they are using platforms like Uber that personalize your experience, that let you know, with one click, where you’re going, how much it’s going to cost you, when your driver’s going to arrive, and the route that you’re taking.

And if you think that’s just one of many platforms that our students interact with daily, that really look at them as a person and their experience is personalized. And so that was one of our strategic priorities at the college. The second was academic excellence, creating a culture of care, aligning our programs to the needs of the workforce and securing our future by making sure that we had a great enrollment management plan, that we were also integrating technology.

I think most academic institutions have been really good at adopting technology. But not necessarily integrating all the systems of technology for that personalized experience.

Developing AI Programs and Faculty Involvement

Madeline Pumariega: I think that AI gives us that opportunity to do so by the fall of 2021 at the college, we had launched a program where faculty had an opportunity to go to AI training and workshops. And so we had about 500 of our faculty participate in those opportunities. In 2022, we set aside some resources to let faculty write grants, and potentially be funded for a grant for an innovation, and there were the president’s innovation awards to faculty. They were $10,000 awards to faculty members who came forward with a proposal on how they would use AI to enhance student outcomes and to enhance learning outcomes.

And so we spent 2022 doing that as an institution, and at the same time, we began really working with industry experts on what curriculum around artificial intelligence would look like. What would we need to do to be a leader in providing a training program in artificial intelligence? And we, together in a partnership with IBM, launched a program, AI for all.

IBM provided, the resources in regards to just some curriculum experts and some industry experts. And we then had faculty experts and we put together a curriculum to be able to launch artificial intelligence academic program through our institute at the college.

Drumm McNaughton: And you are the first institution in Florida with both AA and BS degrees in AI. You started off with the AA, you had 750 students and you launched your BS, or you will launch the BS fall term this year.

Madeline Pumariega: Yes, that’s correct. And we wanted to make sure that the programs were stackable.

Stackable Credentials and Workforce Alignment

Madeline Pumariega: One of the things that I think that higher ed, as a whole has to continue to do, is you’ve got to have multiple entry and exit ramps for students. You’ve got to make sure that if a student wants to come in and get that college credit certificate, how’s that seamless right into the associates in science, that important two year degree.

And if they want to continue and get that bachelor’s degree, making sure it stacks right into that as well. And so just like our cyber security program, our cloud computing program, our artificial intelligence program also builds on those stackable credentials. And so what we’re seeing is that the average age in the program right now, with about the 750 students were serving, it’s about 35 to 40 year olds. And they’re there because they want to get that quick certificate because maybe they’re in marketing and communications and want to know how AI is going to impact or they’re in health care or they’re in technology. So we’re seeing a lot of individuals that want to level up. They want to up skill in the current job they’re in. We’re seeing individuals looking at second and third career, and then there’s a lot of interest in students recently graduating high school that see that as the future of work and are interested in pursuing an artificial intelligence degree pathway at Miami Dade College.

Drumm McNaughton: That really aligns with something that I heard a couple of weeks ago. Zach Mabel and Catherine Campbell, from Georgetown Universities Center for Education and the workforce, they just recently released a report called “The Great Misalignment” that talks about how the certificates really aren’t matching up with, and even AA degrees really aren’t matching up with what the workforce needed.

That’s completely different for MDC.

Madeline Pumariega: Absolutely. I think it’s different for Florida as a whole. One of the things that Florida has really invested is in workforce education. There’s a program at the state level, which gives colleges incentives for industry certifications. Part of being able to get those performance incentive dollars is that the industry certifications that you’re producing and that students are completing aligned to workforce demands, aligned to also wage premiums.

And so I think we’ve done a great job, across the state of Florida, in aligning our academic programs to the needs of workforce. And then at Miami Dade College, each one of our workforce programs, every associates and science program that we have, has an advisory council. That advisory council is made up of industry experts.

They sit at the table and they tell us, “we’re not using that anymore. That software is not going to be happening. That piece of equipment is being grandfathered out.” And so that provides us the opportunity to be making sure that the workforce programs that we are putting up are in need, they’re relevant, and that what we’re teaching in the classroom is also preparing students for those real world work based work learning experiences.

And I think that’s the value of having industry experts. And I think the other aspect of that, so many of our courses are also taught by adjunct faculty, which are industry experts, and they come back to the college, many are alumni, and they want to give back. They come back to the classroom because they want to give back to an institution that gave them so much.

And if they’re industry experts and didn’t come to Miami Dade College, it’s part of their talent management strategy. If they can get in a classroom, they can spend eight or 16 weeks with students. They are right there looking at who their next team is going to be. And so they get to influence that talent management strategy in their own company.

Drumm McNaughton: Those are great thoughts and ideas. I want to unpack that just a little bit because most institutions use adjuncts just because. It’s quite cost-effective for them, you’re proposing, and you’re doing a different use of adjuncts because of their up-to-date industry knowledge. Tell us more about that.

Madeline Pumariega: To us, it’s not so much the strategy of cost savings like it is. How do you make sure that students have the combination of the best faculty that we can and our full-time faculty certainly dedicated to teaching and learning? How do we augment that with industry experts, with experts that are out in the fields? And I think what happens there provides us not only insights on the trends happening in that current field but also provides students opportunities.

I can’t tell you how many students have gotten an internship or a job because of a faculty member. Whether it’s been a full-time faculty member and those industry partnerships that they have, or whether it’s one of our adjunct faculty members that’s in the classroom and knows of an opportunity and then students are able to maybe shift from working at a convenience store at a store to working inside the industry that they’re pursuing.

Maybe getting an internship at a tech company or a trade and logistics company or one of our hospital partners.

And so I think that’s the great benefit of having a combination of our strategy, of our full-time faculty that are here and spending time contributing back to the college in the community by all of the things that they do with our learning outcomes and student success strategies, and then our adjuncts who bring this whole work based experience and the experiential learning opportunities for students. So I think that it makes a good strategy to make sure that it’s student-centric and it’s focused on great academic rigor and the skills that we need for the future of work.

Drumm McNaughton: I think you’re spot on with that’s gonna be the basis for a whole new podcast, I think.

Madeline Pumariega: That’s wonderful.

Drumm McNaughton: So with the AI, and i would have to assume that your full time faculty members, they don’t necessarily have all the deep AI experience, you had to pull that in, but you took some concrete steps to bring AI to fruition there at Miami Dade starting with an advisory committee.

Could you take us through those so that if another institution wanted to build on your model they could do that.

Madeline Pumariega: One of the things that’s important is how do you get the industry experts to come to the table? We decided that it wasn’t just about having AI as a major in our technology division, we wanted to see AI across disciplines. It started with “AI is going to change the way that we work, the way that we learn, the way that we travel, the way that we do everything”.

And so how could we make sure that nurses would have access to what are some of the AI platforms that are being used in health care today that are improving outcomes for patients. Teachers, how could we help the future teachers? We have a wonderful teacher pipeline program in partnership with our school district. How could we make sure that teachers knew what the future of education in K 12 looks like? How and what tools are out there for assessments? When you think about Khan Academy and Khan Amigo? That platform that’s used on AI to help students catch up in areas where they might have some gaps.

And so how could teachers, that we’re preparing to go into the classrooms, know about this? The same with architecture and design students. We just had a wonderful exhibit of our architecture students. So the faculty member in that course, the capstone assignment was to ask their architecture students to create a museum using artificial intelligence that would be focused on the victims of communism around the world.

And so the students did an exhibit and they used, not only their foundational architecture skills that they learned in their architecture courses and introduction to design and 2D and 3D design, they used artificial intelligence platforms that AI have influences and contributes to, and then they put a display together. And to watch what the students did, taking strong foundational skills and coupling them with AI platforms to produce something, that’s a perfect example of using artificial intelligence in an interdisciplinary way, and then we set out to develop the academic programs.

And so I think one is what’s the strategy? Are you just building a program because it’s sexy and you just want to put it up, and you think it’s going to drive enrollment? Or are you really thinking that The way artificial intelligence is coming to us requires some thoughtful leadership, and that’s how we approached it. And so we brought in some of the experts to help us navigate through that and think about ethics and artificial intelligence assessment and efficiency and artificial intelligence and then driving results with the use of artificial intelligence and personalizing that learning experience for our students.

Drumm McNaughton: So what I’ve heard you say, just to summarize up to this point, you had advisory committees that helped you in charting the course, you created stackable credentials, multiple entry and exit ramps, you invested in faculty development. We haven’t gotten into a lot of that yet but, give you an example. One institution that I’m working with, we used AI to develop their vision statement and their mission statement, and most of the people around the table got very upset all this is all plagiarized etcetra. It’s like no, it’s not plagiarized, but we gotta get you past that belief system. How do you deal with the faculty perceptions like this?

Madeline Pumariega: I think it was January of 2023, I think, some of the front headlines of the higher education publications were banning ChatGPT and all of that. We had a different approach. We had already spent almost 18 to 24 months, looking at AI, studying AI, going to training and workshops.

 I assessed it with our faculty, there were believers since day one, and then there were others that were skeptical and I think it was January, February of 2023, I had a fireside chat with our faculty and we had faculty from across the college and we talked about those issues. I shared with them and we laughed about the Britannica Encyclopedia. And I’ve said that story, when I was growing up as a kid you went to the library and that’s where you had your resources. And then all of a sudden Britannica Encyclopedia came to the market and they knocked on the door and they would sell Britannica encyclopedia volumes. And I know my mom, we didn’t go to Disney World so we could get the Britannica encyclopedia and then always get the yearly update. And I can imagine, that back then, there were teachers saying that students would plagiarize by using the encyclopedia. Because what did the encyclopedia do? The encyclopedia summarized 15 books in the library into one page about that topic.

Then came the internet and when the internet came and Explorer came in the worldwide web came, we thought, “Oh my goodness,” and you know what, here we are, how many years later where you go to Google searches and you do all of that. You know, the AI platforms like ChatGPT, the generative open AI platforms, are going to be just like we evolved from Britannica Encyclopedia to, internet searches, to now a synthesized internet search in a ChatGPT.

And so it has democratized information. You can gather information in a very quick and succinct way with ChatGPT or any of the other platforms. I think, now for higher education, we have to think about assessments. If information has been democratized, how do we ensure the application of knowledge? Because that’s the power of education. We’re not in the business of information. We’re in the business of knowledge.

And so how can we make sure that we are imparting knowledge, those critical foundational academic skills and knowledge, those important employability skills and now, equally as important, digital skills, which include the use of artificial intelligence in the most ethical way that you can use it. And I think those are conversations, they’re not one and done conversations.

This is evolving and I think our conversations are evolving, but i’m incredibly proud of our faculty who’ve embraced AI in ways that they can help students be successful. They can advance the impact of our learning outcomes and revisit the way that we assess students and the application of knowledge, not information.

Drumm McNaughton: You’ve given me a great segue. This is critical stuff, because I like your analogy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I remember when they first came out and you having to go to the library, et cetera. Then there became Wikipedia online and all the faculty saying, no, you can’t use Wikipedia because it’s not correct, it’s not correctly cited. Now, 10 years later, people go, “Oh, Wikipedia, that’s fine”. It’s anytime a new technology comes out, whether it be an automobile, the horseless carriage which became the car. Everyone goes, ” no, timeout, we’re not gonna use this because it’s just not ethical or, it breaks down all the time or whatever”.

There is the natural “throwing up the roadblock” to that because, frankly, a lot of people don’t change. You have to use the technology in different ways than you’re used to be before. And that’s where, I think, Miami Dade excels, is giving people that new on-ramp to be able to use a technology and to think about it in a different way.

Now, at the college, you’re doing things differently as well by applying AI. You’re not only teaching it, but you’re using it.

Madeline Pumariega: Absolutely. We have our Vice President of Innovation and Technology Partnerships, Antonio Delgado is leading a work group at the college on how we’ll use AI at our institution. For example, we’re using AI and facilities, we have a platform that’s able to take the information about our HVAC systems and be able to anticipate when we think, that HVAC system may be having issues of maintenance. And so we’re using that to be less reactive in facilities and more strategic and be able to plan for those outages or those replacements. We’re looking at our technology platforms on which ones you can turn on the AI features that can help our advisors have better planning for the student journey to be able to create better schedules for our students.

We’re now looking at combining two systems that we have that could give us using the analytics and the algorithms to be able to help us with scheduling. You know, at the college, we’re the largest, we have thousands upon thousands of sections. How do we make sure that we use it to put up the sections and not only the modality that’s needed for students, but also at the times that students might need it? And that’s going to optimize enrollment and it’s going to optimize efficiency as well. And in the personalization of the student experience, really looking with our CRM and our student information systems, how those come together so that we’re not sending blast emails, but that we know that a student is a business administration major, that might be interested in an internship and has taken, four accounting courses, and there’s internship in an accounting firm.

I think that’s going to allow us to be able to deliver that personalized communication to students in a much more effective way.

Drumm McNaughton: That’s amazing.

Madeline Pumariega: I think the only issue today with the AI platforms for technology companies, it’s that their pricing is right now on consumption, and that isn’t a long term, sustainable pricing function for higher education.

When you think about some of these platforms, it’s, 30 a month per employee, per use, and that I think is going to be the things that we have to, as a large institution, consider and think about. And I think that’s one of the challenges. The opportunities are tremendous. I think in higher education in the private sector, being able to use this data and to be able to provide real time interventions for a student, real time learning support for a student, and to be able to personalize their experience and create efficiency and cost savings.

The challenge is how do you, long term, set aside the money to pay for these technologies if they’re based on consumption and not efficiency?

Drumm McNaughton: Those are all really important points to be thinking about from a long term, especially from a presidential. I’m going to cycle back to one of the things that we talked about just a little bit. And I think this is something that’s on a lot of people’s minds, is the ethics behind AI.

Ethics and AI in Education

Drumm McNaughton: I know at the college, you’re doing some very interesting things to make sure that students, faculty, staff, they all understand what is the appropriate ethics behind AI? Would you tell us a little bit about that, please?

Madeline Pumariega: Yes, the first course that students take in the program is “Ethics and AI”. Through our Center of Professional Development, we have had workshops and continued professional development towards that end, in the ethical application of artificial intelligence.

I think an area where we still have work to do is around assessment. How can we take a look at our assessments and redesign those assessments, not to test for information, but to test for knowledge. If a student is going to have a platform at their fingertips to look up anything, how do you make sure that you teach them that what they’re looking up is valid and how they can double and triple check.


Madeline Pumariega: Would you say to a doctor today that you wouldn’t want them to look up all of the most innovative practices and studies that are out there to treat you? You would want them. You would not want them to simply rely on the knowledge that they learned in a classroom 20 or 30 years ago. You would want them to avail themselves of every research of every study that’s out there. ChatGPT, open generative AI platforms, are going to be able to do that. You have to still teach critical thinking. How do you make sure that what you’re reading is valid? How do you check for the source? How do you make sure peer review?

Those are all the things that are still important that we should be teaching students so that when they leave the college they know that they have this resource, but that this resource always requires a secondary validation of the information. And if you utilize someone else’s work, that you document, that you use and you give credit for someone else’s work that you may have cited or used. None of those things I think are changing.

I think those are all foundational skills of what we’ve been teaching students. I want you to go back and think about the first copyright law in the United States or in the world. They didn’t have computers. What were they challenged with in creating copyright and being able to say, “this belongs to this person” and now it’s copyright. It’s the same. It’s the same way that we’ve been teaching students for decades, that you just can’t copy and paste, that you need to give credit to the source that you got it, unless it’s your own God given moment of source, and I like to tell students, “guys, the early inventors invented just about everything, that we’re going to cite.

So think about how you solve for tomorrow’s problems and not think about how you take credit for an invention. That’s more than 50 years ago. Those philosophers have been doing it for centuries”.

Drumm McNaughton: This has been a fascinating conversation. I’m a tech-head at heart I get it, having flown airplanes for years, there’s the art form of flying the airplane, but there’s also the technical, the engineering behind it, et cetera. This is all fascinating to me.

One last question before we wrap up. We focus very much on Miami Dade College, what you’re doing here, how it’s interacting with students. But there’s another piece to this that we haven’t really talked much about.

Community Engagement and AI Institutes

Drumm McNaughton: It’s how are you educating the community at large? And I think you’re doing some amazing things with your speaker series.

Madeline Pumariega: Through our idea center, we have, fireside chats. We bring in the leading industry experts and we invite the community to come in and join us. From Marcelo Claure, formerly with SoftBank, certainly a leader and an innovator in this country, and so he came in, spoke to students. Rony (Abovitz), from Magic Leap, and certainly an entrepreneur, came in. We’re building a partnership with Synth B, his company with students and having access to a platform when they’re thinking about innovating and creating companies as well. We also bring in, the arts.

I think no world class community is world class if it doesn’t integrate art and education and culture and innovation, and we just hosted the two directors from our performing arts center and local museum, and we talked about AI and how AI and technology influencing the performing arts and museums across our community. So I think those are ways that we bring the community together to engage with us and to learn and contribute back to the community.

Drumm McNaughton: Those are incredible things that need to be done. And there’s one other thing that you’re doing, you’ve decided not to put this in its own college, but it’s part of the College of Engineering, it’s ported across all disciplines, but you’ve also opened or in a process of opening your AI Institute.

Madeline Pumariega: Yeah. So what we did do is, create, a AI Institute, and those are centers at our campuses. The first one is at our north campus at the northern part of the county. We’ve opened one up at the Wolfson campus, which is at the heart of downtown, right in the urban core. And then we’re opening up our third one at the southern part of the county.

And those AI centers are really centers of innovation and excellence, and we invite the community and business leaders to come. And it’s a place of convening, it’s a place of thought leadership. Not only is it a laboratory for our students and our faculty, but it’s also a resource to our community, and so we’re doing that out of our engineering and technology department, but you see our idea center, which is our Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is leading the fireside chats, and then we’re seeing a real cross disciplinary approach to the innovation grants that we’re awarding our faculty.

Drumm McNaughton: I love it when I hear a holistic program that works across all disciplines, so kudos to you and your team for throwing this together. I shouldn’t say throwing, putting it together, because it requires a lot of thought, a lot of discipline, and a lot of partnerships with industry.

Conclusion and Future Directions

Madeline Pumariega: We’re happy to be leading the way at Miami Dade College and we’re happy to be an institution that serves as a model for the country, but most important, we are the beacon of hope, for our community because we’re the community’s college and we’re the path to where so many get their start the American dream through the power of education.

Three Takeaways for Higher Ed Presidents and Boards

Drumm McNaughton: And you are absolutely doing that. Madeline, thank you, this has been wonderful. As we always do, three takeaways for your fellow presidents and boards.

Madeline Pumariega: I think number one, the power of community in terms of just coming together, when we think about our community impact with business, industry leaders, our boards, and our students.

I think number two, making sure that our resources are aligned to our values. What are the values that we have at the institution and then ensuring that in our budgetary process, those always aligned to those strategic priorities.

And I think third is to always make sure that leading with authentic leadership is always going to be the way that we can address. and solve for the future of higher education and for our communities.

Drumm McNaughton: Thank you. Those are wonderful. What’s next for you? What’s next for MDC?

Madeline Pumariega: We are continuing to really look at the future of work. And, one of the areas that we’re very excited about is what we’re doing around Construction Trades Institute, and that’s a fairly large umbrella with semiconductor work as well as our aviation and aerospace and unmanned vehicles and working in that area as well.

So I think that’s couple of the next groundbreaking programs that we will have which align to where some of the jobs are in our community and across the state and in our region.

Drumm McNaughton: Wow, those are fabulous. Madeline, you folks at Miami Dade are a model for so many different institutions. Thank you for, not only for being on the podcast today, but for all that you’re doing for the citizens of Florida.

Madeline Pumariega: Thank you so much. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to come and share and it’s always great to be in conversation, and more than anything to learn from you and the great work that you do always. So, thank you so much.

Drumm McNaughton: My pleasure. Thank you so much. I look forward to the next time we get together.

Madeline Pumariega: You got it.

Drumm McNaughton: Thanks for listening and a special thank you to our special guest Madeline Pumariega, President of Miami Dade College, and for her sharing with us how MDC has embraced AI and created a track where students can learn about and use AI ethically.

Thank you Madeline, always a pleasure to have you on the show.

Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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