Artificial intelligence expert to headline Harvey Mudd commencement

A woman talks into a microphone at a podium.
Computer science professor and AI trailblazer Fei-Fei Li will deliver the 2020 commencement speech at Harvey Mudd College. (Courtesy: User Bquast of Wikimedia Commons)

When Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li received an invitation from Harvey Mudd College to address the graduating class of 2020 as the commencement speaker, she said the request was “a pleasant surprise” and “a true honor.”

Li will deliver HMC’s commencement keynote address May 17, the college announced in a December 2019 news release. 

“I was very, very surprised, and then humbled,” Li said via email. “Harvey Mudd College has a tremendous reputation for its STEM education in the nation. And I’ve been in awe of [Mudd President] Maria Klawe’s leadership in the past decade in terms of increasing diversity and inclusion among the students.”

Li’s research focuses on machine learning, AI and healthcare, computer vision and cognitive computational neuroscience.

She began working at Stanford in 2009, and currently serves as co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, an initiative by Stanford to make computer science research more interdisciplinary and applicable to other fields.

Li also served as director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, a center devoted to AI research, teaching, theory and practice, as stated on the center’s website, from 2013-2018.

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She was Google Cloud’s vice president and chief scientist of artificial intelligence and machine learning while on sabbatical from 2017 to 2018, working on finding ways to make AI products more accessible for businesses and developers.

Li also co-founded AI4ALL, a nonprofit devoted to supporting women and people of color in computer science and AI research, and chief creator of the ImageNet project, a database of images designed for research into visual object recognition software that contributed to advancements in deep learning, first revealed to the public in 2009.

HMC’s class of 2020 selected Li as this year’s commencement speaker through popular vote, HMC Senior Class Presidents Priyanka Agarwal HM ’20 and Tiffany Madruga HM ’20 said via email.

“We chose to pursue Li as a candidate to be the commencement speaker for the class of 2020 because we believe she exemplifies the leadership, impact and depth of experience and knowledge our class wishes to see in our commencement speaker,” Agarwal said.

“We believe that her work in increasing diversity and inclusion in AI education aligns well with the Harvey Mudd mission statement,” Agarwal added.

In her statement, Li said she’d worked with Harvey Mudd graduates at Stanford, and praised their preparedness for graduate work.

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