$3M donation helping Western expand its work in data analytics and artificial intelligence

Engineering student Robert Read and computer science student Heather Kozak thank RBC for its donation.
Engineering student Robert Read and computer science student Heather Kozak thank RBC for its donation. . Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

Western University students in computer science and engineering are getting new opportunities in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics thanks to a $3-million donation from RBC.

Half of the funding will be going to develop new courses focusing on the ethical and social aspects of data analytics and AI programming. The new programming will be developed in collaboration with multiple faculties at the university.

“This project is a unique opportunity for Western to expand its cross-disciplinary work in data analytics and AI and to use this work to help answer the big problems society is facing,” said Western University president Alan Shepard.

“This gift will give Western students even greater opportunities to become expert users in the foundational skills required for the careers of the 21st century.”

The announcement was made earlier Thursday in the Amit Chakma Engineering Building on Western’s campus.

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The remainder of the funds will be split up, with $1 million going towards scholarships in data science and software engineering and just over $500,000 will support the development of RBC’s design thinking program for undergraduate students.

“Together we will establish a highly qualified pipeline of data and AI professionals from diverse disciplines, backgrounds and cultures to support the 21st-century banking sector,” said dean of the faculty of science Matt Davison.

Fourth-year computer science student Heather Kozak spoke at the announcement about the importance and benefits of the new courses being developed.

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“AI is a field of interest for many of us. It is thrilling to think about the infinite number of ways we can apply its potential in areas that have a direct impact in our lives, but it is equally important to identify the challenges AI can bring,” she said.

The new program will allow students to learn about data analytics and artificial intelligence from real-life examples taught by industry professionals.

“We believe the advancement of science and artificial intelligence is going to impact Canadians and lives around the world as well as businesses,” said Western alumnus and RBC group head of technology and operations Bruce Ross.

“Western has a great engineering school, computer science capability, business school, and the multiple facets of Western all come together to provide its strength.”

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As well as the financial contribution, RBC is allocating additional positons to give students summer jobs, internships and other employment opportunities within the company.