May the Fourth, 2023 Empower

5 university leaders explore how ASU powers tech-enabled student and learner success

Yesterday, 500+ IT professionals, technologists and visionaries at Arizona State University (ASU) gathered in Tempe for the sixth annual Empower. The annual event brings together the ASU technology community to exchange insights and explore the path forward, with this year's focus on student and learner success. 

From personalization driven by artificial intelligence (AI) to immersive learning environments, discussions surfaced about the latest technology trends and developments poised to shape the future of higher education. 

ASU’s chief information officer Lev Gonick kicked off the day-long event. In his keynote address, Gonick took the audience on a journey to the past to explore how technologies once considered disruptive – from the introduction of the mobile phone in the 1980s to the first-ever website in the 1990s and more – have been adopted into our everyday lives, for better and for worse. 

“Today, we find ourselves in an all too familiar cycle of rhetoric, hype and doomsday predictions — one that we’ve been through with almost every mainstream technology adoption for the past 50+ years. This time generative AI is taking center stage,” shares Gonick. “At ASU, we’re committed to leaning into AI to enhance the student and learner experience — from operational and business functions to the actual learning taking place in our classes.

The Enterprise Technology News Room

Gonick then looked to the future by exploring ways in which the university could lean into AI-enabled solutions. One such idea included launching virtual creative companions for every student at the university. 

Among the highlights from the day were presentations from university leadership and executive vice presidents, including: 

Here’s a look at the themes, ideas and aspirations shared throughout the day.

Tech-enabled learning futures for all 

Nancy Gonzales: “We're moving into a territory where it's not just going to be the engineers designing immersive educational experiences. More than ever, faculty and students are joining the conversation to lead design experiences to support and advance the diverse needs of all students and learners — and that’s really exciting.”

Morgan Olsen: “Harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies can help us work smarter, not harder, and revolutionize the way we teach, learn and validate our knowledge. It's crucial that we focus on using these advancements for good and influencing their development in a positive direction."

Maria Anguiano: “Artificial intelligence will not replace humans at ASU, but it will supplement learning outcomes and how we’re able to serve our community. We’re developing things like the AI career coaches to have more meaningful conversations to support learners through their journey. Ultimately, this technology is going to help us identify gaps in our learning and create more access to higher education.”

Chris Howard: “At ASU, we're working to combine adaptive learning, such as Dreamscape Learn's immersive learning environments, and opportunities like those provided in our Study Hall YouTube channels. Generative AI has the potential to be the glue that holds these elements together, creating a powerful synergy that can transform the future of education."

Lev Gonick: “Let's work together to figure out how to augment human intelligence through the use of these powerful technologies to support our students and learners. As technology leaders, we don’t just talk about it, we don’t just predict it — we actually invent it.”

Creating support and opportunities for students and learners

Maria Anguiano: “We’re creating seamless transitions and access to education for all learners at every stage in life. The only way we do that effectively is through technology which allows us to meet the diverse needs of our students and learners — no matter their starting point. For example, one of the reasons why we have options like Study Hall on YouTube is to create personalized educational access for all learners.”

Morgan Olsen: “In today's world, our economy thrives on information and what you can do with it. Technology empowers us to access and use knowledge in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago, allowing us to make a difference in people's lives and create equal opportunities for all."

Nancy Gonzales: “As we develop and implement technology for students, we must always consider the diverse needs of the students and learners, and strive to build stronger community connections within the university — as these connections have the power to change lives and shape life trajectories.”

Tech-enhanced collaboration

Chris Howard: “We should be the best of the best. We should be the preferred partner for everybody — whether it be the government, institutions of higher learning, nonprofits or individual tech entrepreneurs — we should be the entry point of innovation and excellence." 

Morgan Olsen: “The power of technology in terms of productivity and its tremendous impact on academic work and student success. It's what motivates us to keep pushing the boundaries and transforming the learning experience for all." 

The discussions were moderated by a series of hosts from ASU’s Enterprise Technology, including:

  • Kyle Bowen, Chief of Staff of ASU Enterprise Technology and Executive Director of Learning Experience | Connect with Kyle  
  • Kimberly Clark, Deputy Chief Information Officer of Operational Excellence and Digital Transformation | Connect with Kimberly 
  • Christine Whitney Sanchez, Chief Culture Officer | Connect with Christine 

The event also featured a Technology Showcase, which invited five teams from across the university to the stage to present on the projects that are helping lead discovery and enable learning for the most innovative university.

Each year, the Empower event gathers the IT community at ASU for a day of connection, collaboration and creativity. 

Authored by Kevin Pirehpour; photos by Mike Sanchez
Follow us on Linkedin to stay ahead on how technology helps the ASU community work, learn and thrive.