Knowledge ∞ Continuum: AI in Practice (McIntire Fall Forum)

October 20, 2023

Heralded as the most transformative technological advancement to impact humanity in centuries, artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing our lives, our approach to business, and our society. The growing presence and continued development of AI signal a new age of extraordinary opportunity across all industries, while raising significant questions about the future of ethics, privacy, empathy, misinformation, labor, and more.  The McIntire School of Commerce’s 2023 Fall Forum, “The AI Revolution: Exploring Possibilities & Challenges,” was held at Old Cabell Hall on Friday, October 20 and featured a keynote talk and panel discussion about the incredible business value and fundamental societal consequences of AI by examining its promise and problems through the use case of generative AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.   Check out this article “Keys to the Future of AI: Five Critical Concepts from McIntire’s 2023 Fall Forum” that aptly describes five key takeaways from the morning program attended by several hundred UVA students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members.

Keynote Speaker: Zack Kass, Technology Futurist; Specialist in Generative AI Solutions

Panelists: Kent Collier (McIntire ’03), Founder and CEO, Reorg; Sarah Lebovitz, Assistant Professor of Commerce, McIntire School of Commerce; Dorothy Leidner, Leslie H. Goldberg Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor in Business Ethics, McIntire School of Commerce

Moderator: Steven L. Johnson, Associate Professor of Commerce, McIntire School of Commerce

Professor Steven L. Johnson; Professor Sarah Lebovitz; Reorg Founder and CEO Kent Collier (McIntire '03); Professor Dorothy Leidner; and Zack Kass explore the promise and problems of AI during a panel discussion at the McIntire School's 2023 Fall Forum.

Professor Steven L. Johnson; Professor Sarah Lebovitz; Reorg Founder and CEO Kent Collier (McIntire ’03); Professor Dorothy Leidner; and Zack Kass explore the promise and problems of AI during a panel discussion at the McIntire School’s 2023 Fall Forum.

Following the McIntire School’s Fall Forum in the morning, the Center for the Management of IT (CMIT) hosted a bonus edition of our premiere executive educational program, the Knowledge ∞ Continuum – AI in Practice, on Friday afternoon from 1:30 to 3 p.m.   The event featured a 90-minute panel discussion with IT industry leaders chatting with our faculty and the audience about how AI is currently being used in their industries.

After a luncheon with McIntire School board members and select faculty and students, CMIT Director Professor Ryan Nelson welcomed our audience of approximately 50 UVA alumni, faculty, and industry leaders to the Knowledge ∞ Continuum and introduced McIntire School Assistant Professor Reza Mousavi. Reza serves on the University of Virginia’s task force on generative AI and gave a brief update on the approach to generative AI at UVA.  There is broad recognition that AI can both augment and substitute critical thinking depending on student, course, and many other factors.  The university is developing an online AI literacy packet to enhance understanding and communication on AI tools and their usage across Grounds.  In response to a question from the audience, Professor Mousavi indicated that UVA has no current plan to make any adjustments to the honor code – it will remain up to each instructor how they permit or promote the use of generative AI within their courses and assignments. This mirrors the educational approach taken during the evolution of calculators, the internet, and other technology tools.

At our last Knowledge Continuum program held on May 12, 2023, McIntire School Professor and Director of the M.S. in the Management of IT (MS MIT) program Stefano Grazioli gave an engaging and entertaining presentation on the “state of AI” focused primarily on generative AI tools like ChatGPT.  Check out a recap of that event here. Building on his prior talk and the morning’s Fall Forum program that speculated mainly about the future of AI, Stefano guided our panelists (details below) through a robust discussion around the current state of AI and rapidly developing tools in practice within their retail, federal, and tech sectors.  Each speaker shared a story about AI at their company during the development of in-house tools for implementation (CarMax, Google News) or an effort to bring new products to market on behalf of their customers (VMWare, WillowTree).


Patrick Higgins, Partner & VP of Business Development, WillowTree

Patrick is a digital technology leader with over a decade of experience partnering with F500 firms across industries to launch innovative new digital products. As the commercial lead for WillowTree’s Data & AI team, today he is helping clients deliver on the potential for AI with a practical approach to launching AI-powered applications. Prior to WillowTree, Patrick began his career in technology with IBM, supporting Healthcare and Government clients. He is a proud “Double Hoo” (CLAS ’10, Darden ’16) and currently resides with his family here in Charlottesville.

During the panel discussion, Patrick shared his four pillars for bringing an AI product to market:  strategy & innovation, data infrastructure & foundations, data science & machine learning model development, and launching AI-powered products.

Courtney Modecki, Regional Director, Federal Heathcare at VMWare (previously with IBM Watson Health)

Courtney is an accomplished IT Strategy and Solution leader. In her current role at VMware, she manages a diverse team working with customers to optimize their product investments and evangelize new capabilities aligned to mission requirements. A proud ‘Hoo (MS MIT, 2019), she holds certifications including Unsupervised Machine Learning (MIT), Blockchain (IBM) Enterprise Design Thinking (IBM), Cognitive Solutions (IBM), Change Management (Prosci), and ITIL. She received the “Excellence in Technology Leadership” award from UVA in 2020 and was recognized by her peers in Public Sector IT for, “Leading for Impact, Women in Leadership Award” (2021).

In her role at VMWare, Courtney works on federal healthcare and as such, is less concerned with revenue and ROI and more focused on the business value of AI to the public and advancing the mission of an organization. VMWare is seeking how best to leverage open-source technology and ensure AI frameworks include accessibility as a primary focus.

Gautam Puranik, Chief Data Officer and Head of Business Strategy & Analytics at CarMax

Gautam has extensive experience developing and implementing marketing programs and systems designed to meet aggressive growth targets and goals. After joining in 2015 as VP, Marketing & Analytics, Gautam became CarMax’s first Chief Data Officer in 2020. He is responsible for driving strategy and analytics with continued involvement in marketing, as well as developing and managing the company’s overall data science and data governance strategy. Before CarMax, he was VP, Marketing Strategy & Customer  Experience at Capital One. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pune, India; M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology; and executive education from MIT Sloan School of Management. He is active in the community and currently serves on the boards of Feedmore, Shady Grove YMCA, and The CarMax Foundation.

Gautam shared this powerful video and spoke to how CarMax has successfully leveraged Azure generative AI in their ongoing efforts to maximize customer experiences using powerful technology tools.


Stefano Grazioli, Professor, and Director, M.S. in the Management of Information Technology Program, McIntire School of Commerce

Professor Grazioli teaches management of information technology undergraduate, graduate, and executive education classes in the United States, Europe, and South America. His contributions as an educator have been recognized with the UVA All-University Teaching award (2009), the 12th annual Faculty Award from UVA’s Order of Claw and Dagger (2018), and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching (2022).

Scroll to see photos from the Knowledge ∞ Continuum program “AI in Practice” below.