Episode 16: Tina Miller

Episode 16: Tina Miller Featured Image

How is one of the nation’s largest universities partnering with OpenAI to take higher education into the future? In this episode of ’73 and Sunny,’ we’re joined by Tina Miller, Executive Director of Creative and Communications for Enterprise Technology at Arizona State University. Tina discusses ASU’s innovative use of AI tools to enhance educational outcomes and the unique challenges of integrating cutting-edge technology across various academic and administrative platforms. Through their collaboration with OpenAI, ASU is not only advancing its educational strategies but also setting a precedent for AI’s role in shaping future learning environments. Tune in to hear how ASU is navigating this exciting frontier, and gain practical insight that can help you leverage AI in your own organization.




Damien: Hello and welcome to ‘73 and Sunny,’ the podcast about the journey of getting things just right. We talk to tech sales and marketing leaders about how they’re growing, dialing in best practices and getting closer to that sweet spot. Today, I am super excited to have Tina Miller join us. Tina is the Executive Director of Creative and Communications for Enterprise Technology, the IT division of Arizona State University.

Tina, thank you so much for joining us. 

Tina: Hey Damien, nice to be here. Thank you for the invitation. 

Damien: So I’m super, I am. I’m really excited about our conversation today. Just because where you are, I think is at the forefront of AI and innovation in education. I actually have my my master’s in education.

So all of this is, I’m dealing with AI right now. So all of this is very, a, very much hitting home for me. And I wanted to start off with a quote that I found that you had that you had said, which I think is very much in line with a lot of the sales and marketing leaders in our audience.

About storytelling and about how important that is to really communicate the point that you’re trying to come get across in a way that is relatable and memorable for people. So I want to start off with this quote that you said, and you said, a leader’s role in the era of AI is to be a storyteller who can translate complex data into compelling stories of possibility and progress.

This is how we lead. Inspire and foster meaningful connections in a technologically advanced world. I think that’s perfect. I think that’s perfect. I’d love to get a little bit more context about what you mean and how you’re seeing the importance of being a leader and being a storyteller. Especially around AI.

Tina: I again, thank you for having me. And at Arizona state university. So we are the number one university in the country for innovation for nine years in a row. And so it’s only natural that we are leading of what in this AI space. And what I’ve noticed too, I started this job back and it’s been about a year.

So I’ve been at Enterprise Technology for a year now. And when I interviewed this time last year, AI wasn’t even uttered in my interview. And then, About two months into the job our chief information officer, Lev Gonnick came to me and he said President Crow needs a slide deck of every AI project that’s going on here at Arizona State University.

So that was my trial by fire into AI. And since then we have been leading so many initiatives and part of what I understand, especially through my colleagues across ASU and our enterprise is that leaders didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know what tools they needed to adopt. They didn’t know how to integrate them into their team.

And on top of that, they’re dealing with all these unknowns, so they don’t know what tools to use. They’re not quite sure how it could be implemented. And for me, what I realized is that it was upon me to lead my team. And by doing that, I didn’t really, we’ve been, you know this, we’ve been, AI has been around, I think since the 1960s, but the Gen AI is really what has been front and center since CHAT GPT came on, online in November of 22.

And but I looked at it and said, okay, if I want my team to, to move fast and be agile and flexible, I need to lead them and I need to learn as much as I can about AI. And I just jumped in I started listening to one one podcast. Now I have this wonderful 73andSunny podcast to listen to. But I just started looking at newsletters and having conversations.

And that’s really what helped me start leading my team. And I even told them when I came in June, I said to them, I want everybody to be using at least one Gen AI tool. By the end of October and by the 1st of October we had 100 percent adoption into my team with these tools. 

Damien: So you’re actually man, mandating the use of AI?

Tina: Yes, because my team at Arizona State University, we are responsible for communicating a lot of what’s happening in AI because in some organizations, especially some of your listeners here, Sometimes the chief marketing officer is in charge of AI. Sometimes it’s the chief technology officer. It just depends on What the needs are of that organization at Arizona state university, Lev Gonnick, who I mentioned previously, our chief information officer, he is pretty much deemed to the person that is responsible for socializing AI across our enterprise.

And because of that, my team has done a lot of storytelling around AI that it’s what we call sometimes, pan university. So it’s not just focused on what the information technology division is doing. But what what our division is doing to help AI adoption across Arizona State University.

And the best way to bring a lot of that together is through storytelling. 

Damien: And I think that is very much in line with a lot of the companies that we talked to. So I was actually just speaking to one of the nation’s largest banks about two weeks ago. And and they were saying that in the past. They had pockets of AI.

They had, oh, marketing was doing this, sales was doing this, development was doing this, finance was doing this. And now they basically said, time out, we need a structured strategy to be able to implement and diffuse all of these opportunities throughout the bank to be able to make sure that not only for efficiency, but also to be able to make sure that That that everyone is on the same page when it comes to some of these new technologies which is what I’m thinking as well is, really what ASU is doing.

So how are you getting the word out? What is the storytelling about? How are you. Sending that message out. I know that you’re very active on social media but how are you getting the storytelling message out there? 

Tina: I would say, first of all, and if you have, I know you have marketers listening to this probably communicators too.

First and foremost, you have to be at the table where the decisions are being made. And and so for that, there is a small tiger team of us in the enterprise technology division that we meet biweekly. And then we talk about what are the things that are going on. We bring in, we work with all different types of divisions and enterprises across ASU.

But a lot of the decision making is happening right at Enterprise Technology. We have a team that we meet. And then we determine, okay, what’s happening? And so in addition to part of our, what has helped our storytelling efforts is our new collaboration with OpenAI. And I’ll talk a little bit about that in, in a minute.

But and it’s just being aware of what’s happening around the university. And to do that, you have to be able to be where the decisions are being made. Which for us, again it’s our, a lot of it is our division. And from there, the storytelling is what we can then bring to the rest of the enterprise of what’s going on.

Our we have a site where we do all of our, we put all of our stories, which is tech. asu. edu slash stories. And what we try to do is, There’s not, let me back up and say what you had mentioned about, there’s different factions and companies and like you might have marketing doing something and HR doesn’t do something.

At Arizona State University, we are not at 100 percent adoption for AI, but what we don’t really even have a strategic plan per se about AI because our executive leadership doesn’t really want to go that direction. So instead, because we are innovators, we have little innovation centers all over the state.

The university every quarter of the university and what we focus on are three main areas. So one is teaching and learning success, making sure students can be successful. Second is research or societal impact. And third is scaling for the future of work. And so if we can find with our storytelling, we try to find any type of narratives that can fit into those three areas.

Pillars, because that’s really what is driving us forward. 

Damien: Fantastic. I love that. And I think it just speaks to the innovation of ASU that you came on board a year ago with no mention of AI and then immediately shifted everything in that. And that is, I think, just inherent within the AI. Body right now that it is just changing so much.

So I’d love to understand a little bit about, every institution has its own charter, especially universities, but what is the ASU charter and why would that be important or, really critical to the work that you’re doing? Because it sounds as though. That, that this was, thrust upon you, but you embraced it and you, and now it is just blossoming.

So help me understand the interplay between the charter and what you’re doing in with AI. 

Tina: Arizona States our charter is what is the reason all of us get out of bed. I think there’s more than 24, 000 employees. We’re one of the largest employers in Arizona. And so every day we get out of bed and we say, what is our charter?

And it’s about in, it’s about being inclusive rather than exclusive. And we measure our success on who we include and bring along with us to be successful. All right. Rather than who we don’t want, who we’re turning away. And because of that, our charter guides, everything we do. And that inclusive inclusivity also extends to our students into our communities to say, how can we be more inclusive?

And and so that’s what guides our work. AI is all about democracy. Democratization. So it’s either creativity or access. And everything we do is about our charter. How can we be more inclusive? And so by using AI tools, we’re able to democratize that. So faculty and researchers and and staff can actually use these tools.

And they’re not just available to a few, they’re available to everyone. 

Damien: I love the concept of inclusivity, but I think you’re making it It might seem easier than it, I think maybe in practice that it might be because you’re dealing with freshmen in college and my wife and I have two, two college kids right now.

And you’re dealing not only freshmen, 18 year olds and doctors, 60 year old doctors who have been teaching or administrators or whatever to be able to make everything inclusive and have AI integration to me is a daunting task. Would you be able to explain a little bit more about how from, that the pan university, as you said how you can actually integrate AI throughout its various department and also keeping tabs on the primary goals.

Tina: I think that the best example of that is our partnership with open AI. And so back in January we announced we were the first university to go all in with OpenAI and OpenAI, it was, it’s the symbiotic relationship where we know we wanted to help them develop a tool for a, a platform for education.

They wanted to partner with higher ed institutions about how they can refine their product offerings. And so in January, we announced this collaboration with them where we gave access not to everybody because we’re talking, we have 150, 000 students. And then we also, like I said, have 24, 000 employees.

So not everybody can get chat GPT, but or at least the pay version. So we worked with them and offered a chat GPT enterprise. And in order to get access to that, we faculty, staff and researchers, they had to submit a proposal because what we’re really focused on in AI at Arizona State University is impact.

And so again, that impact can be measured through those three pillars I talked about, student learning success. Research for societal impact and the future of work. And so we said, okay, if you can provide a proposal that shows us what kind of impact you’re going to make. Then then we’ll give you a license so that you can work on these projects.

The first round, we we released the first round of submissions in spring, and we had about 104 projects that were approved. And so they’re they’re actually finishing up those now. Everything from creating a language buddy so that students that are in a German class can actually interact with the bot in, in, in a conversation so that they can learn.

So we have those types of things everything from that to research that’s happening. And even to the future of work, for an example, they’re looking at different traffic patterns around campus to see, okay, where are the, when are the, when is our things higher traffic, lower traffic are where there might be other accidents if, so they can start guiding even traffic traffic flows.

So it’s every corner of the university. Everything anything you can imagine if it hits one of those pillars and people can use the chat gpt enterprise for it We want to work with them. 

Damien: That’s amazing that is great and to hear that it is so Ubiquitous throughout the university in such a short amount of time.

I mean give people Giving you kudos there to be able to help lead this this a wave of innovation there. With some of those examples that you were giving, I know that there’s also a, an AI innovation challenge. Is that related to all of this? And what is that? And how is it helping students and others beyond ASU?

Tina: So actually that is the AI Innovation Challenge is what we were working with OpenAI on for these projects. So for students, so for right now when we released it in spring, the first round of proposals with the AI Innovation Challenge. We didn’t have a student researchers in that.

We just had faculty and staff students were able to get access to it if they had a sponsor, like a faculty member. Now, then we released the second amount of the second innovation challenge in March, and that we added student researchers to, and so student researchers were then able to get access to chat GPT enterprise so that they can do some of their work.

Now Chat GPT enterprise, which now I think it’s moved over to chat chat GPT 4. 0 for for Omni. I think it’s Omni. Yeah. Anyway. Um, so now we don’t have. Students per se that are included in that unless they’re student researchers, but what we’re doing is there’s all these projects going on, on and around the university, everything from our school of journalism to our engineering schools.

And so we’re going to take that feedback and then say, okay, how can we then use that for it to give that to our students who aren’t student researchers. And we’re working on a model right now for that of how we can give more access to students coming in the fall, but we haven’t worked out all of those plans yet, because again, we’re talking 150, 000 students and so we’re just evaluating.

What is the best way that we can put that tool into the hands of our students? And we’re just we’re right now at the beginning of that and figuring out how that’s going to work. 

Damien: Got it. And I would think that students would be, and this is just my thinking, But would be more apt and willing to adopt some of these AI pieces because they’ve always been in this flow of change and they’re the earliest adopters.

And, over the last couple of years they’ve probably used AI a lot more than some of the other people. But. I think with some of the people who have maybe been at ASU or even just, in the workplace in general have some trepidation around AI and they’re like I don’t really know.

I think it could be good, maybe spell check or maybe helping me with a shopping list or something, but gosh, I don’t know. Is this going to, turn into something. Not as positive. And so I know that there’s the concept at ASU of principled innovation around AI. And I think that’s an important piece of it to, to not only link with what you were talking about with storytelling to help people understand it, but also be okay with adopting it.

So can you tell us a little bit about the principled innovation concept at ASU? 

Tina: Yes really everything we do starts with principal innovation. And basically it’s saying that we have a responsibility, not just to our students, our faculty, our staff, but also to the community and to the world at large to say, okay, are we creating responsibly?

Are, is what we’re doing going to help advance humankind? Because that’s really what principled innovation is about. It’s how can we be very thoughtful and deliberate in what we’re doing and helping to move society forward and not just put things out there without really evaluating what the risks are.

And and so for principled innovation, it’s really about. The human, the valuing the human that’s in the middle of, of this. And then also, what does that mean for society and having a positive impact on society? That’s again, with our charter of being inclusive rather than exclusive, and then coupling that with principal innovation that’s really how AI is adopted through through our enterprise.

Damien: And you had just mentioned this, Tina, about the kind of the pivotal role between, or bridging the gap between technology and humanity. Do you have any, do you have any lessons or do you have any examples of why that’s important to be able to have that, that, bridging of that gap, because that’s what we do here at Versus as well is have AI and human, what we call human in the loop, or, and, if AI has, wants to raise his hand for a question or it doesn’t have a confidence level.

We can fail over into a human that will then take over an actual empathetic conversation. But at, in your experience, help me understand what you’re seeing the importance of in terms of the bridge between, humanity and AI. 

Tina: so I guess one of the examples of that could be, for example, that we’re working on some bot some different bots.

So one of them is, we’re working on a bot with one of the one of the divisions is working on a bot where they have psychology students, Who are loading information into the bot so that they and they’re using personas so they can then it can help train these future psychologists on what are some of the personas and the issues that people might have.

And so it’s helping them of creating a corpus of information of. Different issues that people might have as far as stress and anxiety. So they’re loading that into a bot, but at the same time you, it’s not replacing the human interaction. You still need counselors, you still need therapists to talk face to people or like what we’re doing, a virtual visit.

So I think there’s always opportunity to utilize the technology to learn and to even create GPTs or to create platforms, but you still need humans. To be able to massage the data and to be able to look at that and still have that human interaction. And so by using AI, it’s really just bolstering and helping people so that they can improve their communication.

Damien: I love that. I’m going to, I’m going to tell that to my daughter who is a psychology major. So that’s fantastic. That, that she’ll that help is on the way. The help is on the way from the, maybe she could transfer to ASU, but I love that example. But it’s not again I think you, you are in it.

So I think this comes very easily to you, but what are some some obstacles that, that leaders and teams face when they’re just starting out in terms of trying to integrate AI and how can they overcome some of these challenges? 

Tina: Yeah, I love this question. I think the number one obstacle is fear.

And because sometimes when we don’t, when we don’t understand something and we might be fearful of it, then we turn to negativity. And so to me, it’s beer and it’s also there, there’s, it almost, it’s like analysis paralysis where there are so many choices and options. Where do you start? Where do you start in Gen I?

What do what do you do? And so for our intents and purposes in this conversation, we are talking more about, generative AI, but I think that’s part of it. And as a leader, we have to jump in. And for me, like I said, like my background is in higher education, but not necessarily technology.

And so I just jumped in I started listening to one podcast and then another podcast and then I you know, I started reading newsletters. And then I just started having conversations with other people Around the enterprise to say, what are you doing? And what are you doing? So and so that I, as I got more comfortable with AI, then, and again, I was using some of these tools because we can’t promote at, Arizona State University in our division, we can’t promote these things if we’re not using.

And so I started jumping in, learning things, and then I started sharing what I learned with my team. So people would be more comfortable because I had to set the example to say, I don’t know anything about this. So I just dove in. And just started I just started and I would say for your listeners start where you’re at Just start if you know have the free open model version of you know If it’s chat gpt or if it’s gemini, there’s a lot of large language models out there you just start experimenting and then once you start getting comfortable with it, then you can start having, conversations.

And so that’s what I really encourage my team. Let’s start using these tools so that we all know what it is. Because My, my team is really one of the only teams at Arizona State University that is singularly focused on AI and what those stories look like and how we’re bringing that to the rest of the university and the community.

And so really it was me getting comfortable with it first and then encouraging my team to get comfortable with it. And there’s, also the obstacle, there could be an obstacle of resources. And so that’s part of it is, you do have, your listeners do have to, understand if you have to get resources and there might be some technology concerns, data privacy issues.

And so those things have to, you have to be able to answer to those. But as leaders, It is imperative that we learn these things because AI is not going away. In fact Accenture did a, it’s their pulse of change index that they did for 2024. And they said, and they they scanned and they surveyed all these CEOs.

And they said the number one the number one cause of business disruption is technology. And so AI is not going away. And if people will say, AI is the future. No, AI is now, and so as leaders, we can’t look to, two months down the road because this technology is moving so fast.

Yeah. I just talked to a colleague the other day and they’re like, I have AI fatigue because it’s moving so quickly. You have to keep up with it. And the best way to do that is just to jump in. Learn what you can and share and by sharing it, then you get that your team more engaged because teams, people help on what they help to create.

And for me, I really wanted to create an open environment where there’s experimentation is encouraged, whether whatever Gen AI tool it is. Sharing it. And then what I told my team is I want all of you to be subject matter experts and AI. Again, I lead the creative and communications team.

And so I, I talked to our photographer. And I told him, find, the ways that you can use ethical photography and talk about that. We have a graphic designer. I suggested to her, find out that, what are the, how can we depict AI that’s responsible and fun and I also looked at all my team members to say, you are going to be the subject matter expert in AI.

And then now we are sharing that information across the university. We partner with our brand team and our media relations team. And I’m really positioning the people on my team as subject matter experts. 

Damien: Wow. That is great. One, I’ve never heard of ethical photography, so that’s fantastic. But we’re the age, we’re in the age of these deep fakes, right?

And everything you’re not sure what you’re actually listening to. And I actually, my son did one giving me a voice message that he pretended was from my dad. This is just this last week. Pretending, Hey, I need some money. I was like, what is this? And I was just kidding.

And but that’s real. That’s how people get scammed. And so this is, I love it. So overcoming the fear, getting the resources and the communication. To be able to really have this inclusivity that you’re talking about adopting AI. So in, in terms of anything else, any any other advice for people that are looking in terms of adopting AI, either in other schools or in businesses.

Tina: Yeah I would say first of all, you have to be familiar with what AI is. And as I mentioned before, start experimenting, start, start trying out some of these tools and then jump in, listen to the podcast, like 73 and Sunny. There’s, other podcasts, there’s so much out there that you can’t, the information is all around.

I would say just start educating yourself. So that you understand what this technology is all about because this is the worst version of Gen AI that we’re ever going to experience. It’s only going to get better and better. And it’s just staying ahead of it. Even if you just take 10 minutes, sign up for some newsletters or things and just take 10 minutes a day, just to read.

But really it’s just, I think it starts with educating yourself. It’s just like in higher ed, when you get a degree, it’s like you don’t just educate the person, you educate the family and the community. And it’s the same thing of, just educate yourself. And again, Once you’re educated, then you can see yourself As a subject matter expert and then you can be valuable to your organization.

And again and part of it is, take an interest in it, gather other people around, we have a communities of practice all over Arizona State University that focus on ethics and focus on teaching and learning and focus on all these great things in their communities of practice that come together.

And by bringing everybody together, it’s, it makes it even a more enriched experience. So I would say do that. And also attend conferences or or find other people that you can talk with outside of your organization to get an even broader view of what AI is, what’s happening and how you can bring that into your organization.

Damien: Tina, that’s fantastic. And I have said that to people as well, in terms of this is this is the worst it’s going to be along with. Self driving cars. This is as dangerous as it’s going to be. It’s only going to get better from here. So Tina, thank you so much for joining us again to our listeners Tina Miller, the executive director of creative and communications for enterprise technology, which is the it division of ASU, Tina, thanks so much for taking the time and giving us just a little bit of a better glimpses to what’s coming in the future.

So thank you so much. 

Tina: Thank you, Damian, and thank your listeners for being there today.