Artful Intelligence: AI in the Humanities Classroom

“I decided that the way I was going to handle the situation was by having open discussions with my students about AI, but also allow them to explore what AI can and can’t do well right now.”

AI@Iona, Thought Leadership

By Amy Stackhouse, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English

I first became interested in exploring AI in my course(s) — right now I’ll focus on Honors 109, the Honors writing course — when I realized what the new generative AI models could do and that it was going to completely upend the way I teach writing.

Initially, I thought about banning AI outright on my syllabus and including it with my plagiarism policy. However, I didn’t think that would be the most effective way of dealing with the situation, both because I thought it would be ineffective and also because I thought it was ignoring the larger issues.

I decided that the way I was going to handle the situation was by having open discussions with my students about AI, but also allow them to explore what AI can and can’t do well right now. So, rather than focusing on ethics, which I feared would sound like more pedantic lecturing to my students or would become irrelevant when they were actually writing papers, I focused on utility.

I’ve always tweaked my classes according to what works or doesn’t and what the latest scholarship has revealed; however, I now am reworking my courses as the AI landscape changes. In other words, I expect this to be a work in progress until the lights go out and we all return to quill and parchment.

Dr. Stackhouse has been an early adopter of using AI in the classroom. She recently led a discussion as part of the AI@Iona initiative, discussing the techniques she found effective in engaging students, the challenges she encountered, the feedback she received and her suggestions for faculty considering the role of AI in their classrooms.

Founded in 1940, Iona University is a master's-granting private, Catholic, coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. Iona's 45-acre New Rochelle campus and 28-acre Bronxville campus are just 20 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. With a total enrollment of nearly 4,000 students and an alumni base of more than 50,000 around the world, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona is highly accredited, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona students enjoy small class sizes, engaged professors and a wide array of academic programs across the School of Arts & Science; LaPenta School of Business; NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences; and Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Iona is widely recognized in prestigious rankings, including The Princeton Review’s 2024 national list of “The Best 389 Colleges” and The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s “2024 Best Colleges in America,” which ranked Iona at #66 in the nation overall and #8 in the nation among Catholic schools. Iona’s LaPenta School of Business is also accredited by AACSB International, a recognition awarded to just six percent of business schools worldwide. In addition, The Princeton Review recognized Iona’s on-campus MBA program as a “Best Business School for 2023.” Iona also offers a fully online MBA program for even greater flexibility. In July 2021, Iona announced the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences, which is now principally located on Iona’s Bronxville campus in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian. Connecting to its Irish heritage, the University also recently announced it is expanding abroad with a new campus in County Mayo, Ireland. A school on the rise, Iona officially changed its status from College to University on July 1, 2022, reflecting the growth of its academic programs and the prestige of an Iona education.