Illumination by Modern Campus

Elisa Stephens (Academy of Art University) on Nurturing Creative Expression in the AI Era

August 24, 2023 Modern Campus
Illumination by Modern Campus
Elisa Stephens (Academy of Art University) on Nurturing Creative Expression in the AI Era
Show Notes Transcript

On today’s episode of the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast, guest host Shauna Cox was joined by Elisa Stephens to discuss the balance of AI and creativity, and how it can be adapted into a student’s educational journey.

Voiceover: Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focused on transformation and change in the higher education space. On today’s episode, we speak with Elisa Stephens, who is President of the Academy of Art University. Elisa and podcast guest host Shauna Cox discuss the balance of AI and creativity, and how it can be adapted into a student’s educational journey.

Shauna Cox (00:00): Elisa Stephens, welcome to the Illumination Podcast. It's great to have you here.

Elisa Stephens (00:07): Thank you very much. And I'm very excited to be here this morning.

Shauna Cox (00:11): Absolutely. And so we're here today to talk about, you know, creativity and the age of ai. And I'm just wondering from your position as president, how have you seen AI evolve within the higher education space?

Elisa Stephens (00:26): You know, we at the Academy of Art University have always been early adapters at technology, especially the technology that'll serve our students as practical tools and their art education. And the two most popular image generating tools that we've been using have been stable diffusion and mid journey. And they're both just about a year old and chat G B T, which is less than nine months old. Mm-Hmm.

Shauna Cox (00:53): Absolutely. And so essentially, why should higher ed leaders care? You know, why is it important for higher ed leaders to focus on creativity when it comes to ai?

Elisa Stephens (01:09): Primarily because AI is a machine and it's a tool. And we see this in our school of industrial design, advertising, photography, graphic arts and fashion in particular, as well as animation and game design. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> the machine, the AI tool cannot create. It only knows what it's been programmed to know. It doesn't know what it can't create or know what has never been created.

Shauna Cox (01:41): Absolutely. And so what are some of the challenges that either, you know, you've seen at your institution or that you're just seeing in the higher ed space when people are trying to incorporate more of that creativity into ai?

Elisa Stephens (01:59): Well, frankly, we have a big belief at the Academy of Art to focus on the foundations, the fundamentals of art and design. So I guess I'd rephrase the question a little bit. I'd say it's always been and remains vital for higher education leaders and institutions to focus on creativity rather than rote and repetitive behavior. And the evolution of AI is not, hasn't changed that fact. We must equip the students with our foundational understanding, the time honored principles of drawing, design, color and design structure and form. And the more that way we can let their imaginations run wild when they do have access to ai. And they are using prompts to improve the AI output.

Shauna Cox (02:49): And so how can higher ed leaders, you know, look to leverage AI in higher ed without losing that level of creativity?

Elisa Stephens (03:00): Well, if the students are well educated in art and design, putting creativity first, what a AI is really doing is that it's helping our students iterate faster seeing more prototyping quicker to excite them in what can be possible. And then that way the artist's eyes and then their skills are applied to what AI has presented. I guess one example would be AI can, you know, create a girl in a red dress mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but that picture alone's not exciting or interesting. It takes the artist then to manipulate that picture. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. I think advanced education and educators should be integrating AI in all creative courses where the artists can use it to improve their portfolio, which is what we're always trying to do is have our students have a wonderful portfolio upon graduation.

Shauna Cox (04:07): Absolutely. And then finally, what impact, you know, either that you're seeing again in the market or at your institution, what impact does blending that creativity and AI have on the student success?

Elisa Stephens (04:22) It's, it's really necessary. I mean, AI's not going anywhere. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, and it's the future. And we must meet the challenge of it and embrace it. And although AI can perform rote tasks much faster than humans, such as, and with animators, an example is AI can do wire removal very quickly, freeing our student animators to do much more of the exciting work for creating that way. For example, AI can't imagine a world where animals are talking to animals, you know, in English, <laugh>, or any language for that matter. The impact of blending creativity and AI on students is an enormous impact, which is why we've been so quickly to integrate it into our educational flow of so many of our departments. Whether the academy students are pursuing degrees in filmmaking, fashion, design, architecture, fine art, industrial design, or any other hosted degrees that we offer, our focus is on helping them build a professional portfolio for work that will lead to a career in the industry of their choice. AI as a tool is here to stay. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> teaching our students to master it and then demonstrating that they can command AI in their portfolio creative work will make them prime job candidates for, which is our goal.

Shauna Cox (05:54): Absolutely. At the end of the day, that's what you want. Amazing. Well, Lisa, that's everything we have for you, but of course we cannot end this podcast without our favorite foodie question. So you are based in San Francisco and I know that you have a couple choices in mind, but what, where do people need to eat when they are visiting?

Elisa Stephens (06:14): Well, I was born in San Francisco. I'm a native and so I have a I'm a fan of two restaurants that I would recommend anywhere at any time, <laugh>, and that would be Gary Danko. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, they have wonderful food. And Gary Danko is the chef. And then I would also recommend Boulevard. And Nancy Oaks is the chef there. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, and she does a phenomenal job. So those are my top two picks, Gary Danko and Boulevard.

Shauna Cox (06:44): Perfect. And, you know, being a San Francisco native, I very much trust where you are recommending amazing <laugh>. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Elisa. It was great chatting with you. And yeah, have a great day.

Elisa Stephens (06:56): Thank you very much. 

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