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Illuminating Humanities: Madelyn Kennedy

Highlighting Humanities Research and its Impact
Madelyn Kennedy | University Studies, Society, Ethics, and Law (S.E.A.L.)
by Megan Bodily

Madelyn Kennedy, 2023-24 Glasscock Undergraduate Summer Scholar, Department of University Studies, Society, Ethics, and Law (S.E.A.L.), Texas A&M

The Glasscock Center is excited to continue this series that highlights humanities research at Texas A&M, as well as the vital role played by the humanities beyond the academy.

For this highlight, we invite Madelyn Kennedy to tell us about her experience as a Glasscock Center Undergraduate Summer Scholar (UGSS) participating in the Ethics And Politics Of Artificial Intelligence seminar directed by Dr. Glen Miller (PHIL).

Madelyn Kennedy is a Junior majoring in University Studies with a concentration in Society, Ethics, and Law (S.E.A.L.) at Texas A&M University. Kennedy plans to pursue a master’s degree after graduation before going to law school.

Kennedy is currently a Glasscock Center Undergraduate Summer Scholar (UGSS) participating in the Ethics of Politics and Artificial Intelligence seminar directed by Dr. Glen Miller (PHIL), which critically examines the social, ethical, epistemological, and legal ramifications of various forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dr. Miller suggested that Kennedy apply to the UGSS program; before then, Kennedy was unaware that undergraduate students could be involved in research. Now, she is spearheading a research project of her own.

The UGSS program provides various resources, including mentorship, to undergraduate students with the goal of developing a proposal for submission to the LAUNCH Undergraduate Research Scholars thesis program. Kennedy emphasized how the Glasscock Center’s frequent communication and openness fosters a positive experience saying, “They’ve been able to really connect everyone together, which I honestly did not think was a possibility.” Students also attend a series of writing workshops hosted by the University Writing Center, which have helped Kennedy strengthen her writing skills and provided an opportunity for all the UGSS to interact. Kennedy believes that one of the most important aspects of the program is the individual mentorship, she mentions how Dr. Miller has helped her through the entire process, from providing tips on how to organize a literature review to understanding how large-language-model AI works.

Kennedy believes it is critical to understand how AI works because it permeates all facets of society. She has always wanted to learn about AI but was initially intimidated because she lacks a technological background. However, instruction provided by Dr. Miller during the first 2-weeks of the program ensured that she was equipped and comfortable with the topic. For Kennedy, “Learning the whole new world of computer science has been super exciting.” Miller’s seminar also opened Kennedy’s eyes to the importance of the relationship between the humanities and technology like AI. She says,  “AI is so new and you have to think about what it could evolve to be, in even just 10 years into the future; humanities is not only what is right now, but what could be in the future.”

Kennedy has chosen to write her thesis on ChatGPT, an AI chatbot launched in 2022 by OpenAI. Instructors raised concerns about academic dishonesty because ChatGPT can mimic human-like prose at extended length and is readily available. For one account that explains why instructors have expressed apprehension about AI, see AP News’ article “EXPLAINER: What is ChatGPT and why are schools blocking it?” Kennedy’s research project aims to understand how ChatGPT affects academic integrity and, more precisely, how students can use AI ethically and how universities should regulate it. 

Kennedy has always enjoyed putting puzzles together, stating that “It is so satisfying” to complete a project. Participating in the UGSS program has helped crystallize her enjoyment of the research process. She looks forward to completing her research puzzle and anticipates submitting her paper to an academic journal under Dr. Miller’s guidance. When asked about her biggest takeaway from this experience, Kennedy said that it is to “stop questioning myself…I am here for a reason.”