Partnership with Intel to enhance HCC’s artificial intelligence degree program

Aug 3, 2021

Houston Community College (HCC) and Intel Corp. announced a partnership today to enhance and expand the college’s artificial intelligence (AI) degree program with curricular enrichment, faculty development and career-oriented student support.

With the announcement, Intel became the latest industry leader to collaborate with HCC following the establishment of the college’s partnerships with Microsoft Corp. and Amazon last year in support of the HCC AI program. In fall 2020, HCC became the first community college in Texas and second in the U.S. to launch the associate degree AI program, which in part incorporates machine-learning curricula from Microsoft and Amazon.

Intel will offer additional instructional content for the HCC AI program to allow students to develop skills in data collection, AI model training, coding, and exploring the societal impact of AI technology. The company will also provide technical advice, faculty training, summer internships, and mentors for students and faculty. Earlier this year, Intel initially trained six HCC faculty members prior to the official partnership kick-off.

“HCC’s partnership with Intel signifies a social commitment we share,” said HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado. “Intel’s diversity- and inclusion-focused initiative is a perfect match for what HCC does as a college for the diverse community we serve. We both aim to help build a workforce with skills relevant and critical to the needs of today’s economy and life.”

HCC is among 18 community colleges in 11 states with which Intel has announced its partnerships to make AI associate degree programs available to 800,000 students, The goal is to help students land careers in high-tech, health care, business, manufacturing, automotive, industrial, aerospace and other AI-infused fields. Eight of the colleges including HCC are Minority Serving Institutions.

“Recent studies show the demand for AI skills is expected to grow exponentially,” said Carlos Contreras, senior director of AI and Digital Readiness for Intel’s Americas region. “Intel believes AI technology should be shaped by different voices, experiences and backgrounds. Community colleges offer the opportunity to democratize AI technology since they attract a diverse array of students with various backgrounds and expertise.” 

AI, a science that explores machines’ simulation of human intelligence, has seen its increasingly sophisticated applications across the spectrum of life over the decades. Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, HCC vice chancellor of Workforce Instruction and HCC Southwest president, said the college workforce instructional leadership began pushing for the AI degree program four years ago after identifying AI as among essential fields for Houston and the country. The program has drawn nearly 90 students since its inception.

“We’ve seen the interest in the program steadily grow since its launch with 57 students initially enrolled in the pathway,” she said. “Our partnership with Intel today is a natural progression to expand the curriculum in an already highly in-demand program.”

Burillo-Hopkins said the partnership will strengthen HCC’s AI program and effort to help develop an AI-trained workforce for the Houston region.

“With NASA, the Texas Medical Center, the Port of Houston, the energy sector, and a large number of corporations and businesses in our area, we see an abundance of job opportunities that calls for AI skills,” she said. “The college is committed to creating this talent pipeline to accelerate the Houston region’s economic growth and meet pressing industry needs.”

Intel’s partnership is the latest of collaborative efforts between HCC and the tech industry in recent years to create curricula that meet current industry demands, said Jim Livesey, interim dean of HCC Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence.

“We’ve had great success over the years with our partnership with Apple after we launched a coding school in 2017 to teach Apple’s App Development with Swift curriculum,” Livesey said. “Now embedded in the AI associate degree are credentials awarded for students’ training in Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, or AWS.”

“Intel as a global tech company is of such a stature that our partnership with them will add a robust, new dimension to our program in its capacity to connect our students to rewarding careers,” said Fidelis Ngang, HCC faculty division chairman for Computer Systems Networking.

George Brown, the professor coordinating the HCC AI program, called Intel “one of the important companies on the planet.”

“Our students will gain tremendous confidence in their studies from our relationship with Intel, and their horizons on their career potential will be greatly expanded because Intel supports such a breadth of industries,” he said. “The opportunity for HCC AI students to intern with Intel would be particularly valuable for them. It would add a strong line to their resumes.”

The HCC AI associate degree plan includes a course on AI’s application in cybersecurity, said Samir Saber, program director for HCC Information Technology Continuing Education who also oversees the cybersecurity program.

“Both AI and cybersecurity are HCC signature programs, and both fields are national priorities,” he said. “AI is playing a big role in cybersecurity, especially in helping cybersecurity analysts process data sets and patterns so large and complex that it would be difficult for humans to tackle.”

The college’s cybersecurity program is designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Two-Year Education by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In its 2021 report, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence highlights AI education and development as a top national security priority.

“We now know that the uses of AI in all aspects of life will grow and the pace of innovation will continue to accelerate,” the report concludes. “The United States should invest what it takes to maintain its innovation leadership, to responsibly use AI to defend free people and free societies, and to advance the frontiers of science for the benefit of all humanity.”

Visit hccs.edu/ai or call 713-718-7631 for details about the HCC AI program.


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