Promoting the Public Good
UVA Today, Sep. 29, 2021
By Audra Book
Renée Cummings arrived at the University of Virginia in October 2020 as the School of Data Science’s first data-activist-in-residence. Cummings, who speaks internationally on artificial intelligence ethics and inclusive innovation, also lectures on big data ethics in the school’s data science master’s program.
The No. 1 question she gets from UVA students is also big: “How do I make a difference?” Students want to know how to think about making decisions to ensure their choices are ethical and serve society.
“Our work at UVA is to give students the confidence to act responsibly and on behalf of the public good,” Cummings said. “We want students to understand why justice and social good and civic-mindedness are so critical to the work that we are doing in technology.”
Now Cummings is furthering her contributions to this mission by helping lead UVA’s role in the Public Interest Technology University Network, a consortium of 43 academic institutions focused on building the field of public interest technology and preparing the next generation of civic-minded technologists. Her co-leader at UVA, with whom she will serve a three-year term, is Jonathan L. Goodall, professor of civil engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.