Carnegie Mellon University
May 15, 2020

CMU's First AI Grad — From 32 Years Ago

By Byron Spice

Byron Spice
  • School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-9068
Virginia Alvino Young
  • School of Computer Science
  • 412-268-8356

This week, Carnegie Mellon University will confer degrees on the first graduates of the School of Computer Science's undergraduate program in artificial intelligence, but it won't be the first time CMU has awarded an AI degree.

It was 32 years ago that Jared Leinbach claimed his bachelor's degree after completing a self-defined major in AI.

"There was a wave of excitement at the time about AI," recalled Leinbach, a software developer who has started several companies. "Neural networks" was the buzzword then and CMU was a hotbed of research, having just hired one of the leading researchers in the area, Jay McClelland, as a psychology professor.

Leinbach arrived at CMU in 1984 as a mechanical engineering student, but after four semesters he decided to switch to what is now the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which allowed self-defined majors. He and his adviser came up with a plan that involved a number of computer science, cognitive psychology, linguistics and philosophy courses, as well as a couple of classes at the University of Pittsburgh.

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