First HCC AI students to graduate as program interest grows
By Zen Zheng
Feb 9, 2022
From left, Cordelia Omonkhegbe, Neethi Anand Gangidi, Denzel Wilson, Andrei Tcenev, and Dina-Marie Stager discuss their projects before an evening class. They will be the first to graduate from HCC’s artificial intelligence program in May.
After two years of academic grind, Denzel Wilson is counting the days to a milestone in his quest for a tech career. In May, he will walk the stage for a degree in artificial intelligence.
Wilson, 25, will be among the initial AI graduates from Houston Community College, the first community college in Texas to launch an AI Associate of Applied Science degree program in summer 2020.
“I’m excited to be the first in my family to be handed a degree,” he said. “I can’t wait to invite my mom and especially my uncle, who works in IT and inspired me to go into the field.”
Since its launch, the AI program has drawn growing interest with enrollment rising to 76 this spring from 57 last fall, said Samir Saber, dean of HCC Digital and Information Technology. AI’s broad uses across industries from health care to manufacturing to cybersecurity continue to fuel its demand as a career path, Saber said.
G. Brown, AI program coordinator who helped create the program at HCC, said graduates are poised to move on to a four-year university.
“Our curriculum gives graduates an edge in pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science, cybersecurity, electrical engineering and other fields,” Brown said. “AI talent is in high demand by tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, NASA and SpaceX.”
Wilson said the HCC program is preparing him to seek a bachelor’s degree in double majors in cognitive neuroscience and computer science at Rice University, an idea sparked by an internship at Rice and his love of AI.
With HCC faculty help, Wilson secured the four-month internship last summer at Rice’s Laboratory for Synthetic Macromolecular Assemblies where he used AI in data research.
“My AI background from HCC gave me a leg up in my internship application,” Wilson said. “I’m hopeful my HCC degree will take me on a new journey with Rice.”
With the associate degree program’s popularity, HCC is on track to offer its own Bachelor of Applied Technology degree, Saber said.
“The plan is going through state approval, and we hope to launch it in fall 2023,” he said.