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Apr 04

Finley Chair Symposium on the Social and Business Impact of AI

With significant research over the last 40 years and developments in hardware and software technologies, Artificial Intelligence is taking hold as an important and significant technology that is estimated to change our way of life. Estimates on the impact of AI in the next five years varies from changing everything to limited impact on the way business is done.

To get a better understanding of AI’s impact in the context of the Chattanooga area and Tennessee as a whole, we have invited leading researchers in AI and our region’s senior business leaders for a half-day, in-person symposium.

UTC's University Center, Raccoon Mountain Room
710 E. 5th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403
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Apr 04, 2024 08:00am ET - Apr 04, 2024 01:30pm ET


Symposium Program:

  • 8-8:30 a.m.: Registration and Breakfast
  • 8:30 a.m.: Welcome by Dean Robert Dooley
  • 8:40-9:30 a.m.: Opening Keynote: “Recent and Emerging Trends in Analytics-AI Applications” by Dr. Ramesh Sharda, Oklahoma State University.
  • 9:30-9:45 a.m.: Break
  • 9:45-11 a.m.: Panel Discussion Moderated by Dr. Hemant Jain, Panelist: Chad Brashier--VW, Dan Challener—Public Education Foundation, Rajiv Saxena—Kenco, Sherri Zink—BuleCross BlueShield
  • 11-11:15 a.m.: Break
  • 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.: Keynote: “AI and Humans: Role of AI in Work and Life” by Dr. Bala Ramesh, Georgia State University
  • 12:15-1:30 p.m.: Lunch and Lunch Keynote: “Exploring the Frontiers of AI: The Dark and Bright Perspective” By Dr. Ashish Gupta, Auburn University.

Opening Keynote: Recent and Emerging Trends in Analytics-AI Applications

Ramesh Sharda

Vice Dean for Graduate Programs and Research,

ConocoPhillips/Watson Chair and Regents Professor, Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University

Recently, generative AI such as ChatGPT has taken the world by storm. However, analytics/data science applications have been developed and fielded in many organizations over the last many years. We discuss highlights of how the two developments come together and how such applications can impact broader society at large. We also consider the critical issues of responsible AI from legal as well as ethical standpoints by highlighting examples of issues. We conclude with a discussion of impacts of these trends for future analytics/AI professionals.

Dr. Ramesh Sharda is the Vice Dean for Research and the Watson Graduate School of Management, Watson/ConocoPhillips Chair and a Regents Professor of Management Science and Information Systems in the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University. He has coauthored two textbooks (Analytics, Data Science, and Artificial Intelligence: Systems for Decision Support, 11th edition, Pearson and Business Intelligence, Analytics, and Data Science: A Managerial Perspective, 5th Edition, Pearson). His research has been published in major journals in management science and information systems including Management Science, Operations Research, Information Systems Research, Decision Support Systems, Interfaces, INFORMS Journal on Computing, and many others. He is a member of the editorial boards of journals such as the Decision Support Systems, Decision Sciences, ACM Database, and Information Systems Frontiers. He served as the Executive Director of Teradata University Network through 2020 and was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2016. Ramesh is a Fellow of INFORMS and AIS.

He was the winner of 2020 OSU Eminent Faculty Award. Ramesh also won the Fulbright Distinguished Chair Award at Aalto University in Finland for 2022-2023.

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Panel Discussion: Impact of AI on Greater Chattanooga Region

Moderator: Dr. Hemant Jain

W. Max Finley Chair and Professor of Data Analytics in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Hemant Jain is W. Max Finely Chair and Professor of Data Analytics, in Rollins College of Business at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, USA. He is also Director of MS in Data Analytics program. He has published more than 100 articles in leading Information Systems and computer science journals such as ISR, MISQ, JMIS, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, IEEE Transactions on Systems Man and Cybernetics, Naval Research Quarterly, Decision Sciences, Decision Support Systems, Communications of ACM, and Information & Management. He recently co-edited a special issue of ISR on Humans, Algorithms, and Augmented Intelligence: The Future of Work, Organizations, and Society. He received a best paper award from European Journal of Information System. He also received IEEE Technical Committee on Service Computing’s Outstanding Leadership Award. He served as Associate Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on Services Computing and as Associate Editor of JAIS & ISR.


He received his Ph. D from Lehigh University, a M. Tech. from IIT Kharagpur, and B. E. University of Indore, India.


Chad Brashier

Sr Manager - IT Manufacturing Volkswagen Group of America

Chad Brashier – Currently serves as Sr. Manager of IT Manufacturing for VWGoA - Chattanooga Plant. Chad brings over 32 years of IT experience having held diverse IT roles in the areas of security, system architecture, analytics, network design, and application management. Chad has had successful tenures across multiple industries including - automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, banking, and commodity trading. Chad is part of the factory Digitization Steering Committee which strives to transform VW plant operations through the use of emerging Industry 4.0 solutions and contributes to the UTC Advisory board for MS Data Analytics Program. Chad holds an MS in Information Technology Management from Florida Institute of Technology (2009) and a BA in General Studies from Louisiana State University (1993). Chad, along with his wife and three children, has called the Chattanooga valley home since 1999.  

Dan Challener

President, Public Education Foundation

Dan Challener has served as president of Public Education Foundation since 1999. At PEF, Dan has helped to initiate programs that have increased the opportunities of Hamilton County students and strengthened the skills of Hamilton County educators. Over the last five years, PEF has partnered with VW and Hamilton County Schools to create the largest network of school-based digital fabrication labs in the world; this past February, PEF hosted an evening seminar for 75 Hamilton County educators entitled “Getting Started with Generative A.I.” Dan served on the team that wrote Tennessee’s successful $500M Race to the Top Proposal and chaired one of the committees that designed Tennessee’s new funding formula for public education. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University and earned his Ph.D. from Brown University. He is married to a Hamilton County kindergarten teacher and is the proud father of three children who, all of whom graduated from Hamilton County public schools and college. 

Rajiv Saxena

Senior Vice President , Kenco Logistics

Rajiv Saxena, SVP, Supply Chain Solutions, at Kenco Logistics, Chattanooga, TN, is responsible for supply chain engineering, innovation, business intelligence and advanced analytics, continuous process improvement, labor management systems, and digital transformation areas. He has over 30 years of cumulative industry experience in Supply Chain Analytics and Solutions Design, Innovation, Sustainability, Industrial Engineering, Global Trade Compliance, Management Consulting, and Systems Development. Before Kenco, he worked with APL Logistics, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, CEVA Logistics, S. B. Billimoria & Company, India; and General Electric Company, India. He is a frequent speaker at INFORMS, CSCMP, and IISE conferences as well as at several leading academic institutes. He has extensively published on different logistics and supply chain topics in several magazines. He has a PhD in Operations Management from the Simon School of Business, University of Rochester, a Post Graduate Diploma in Industrial Engineering from National Institute of Training in Industrial Engineering, Mumbai, and a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology.

Sherri Zink

Senior Vice President and Chief Data and Engagement Officer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Sherri Zink is a dynamic and accomplished leader in the healthcare industry and currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Data & Engagement Officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Her vast experience in healthcare, spanning over 30 years, has earned her numerous accolades and awards for her team’s innovative use of data to improve efficiency and quality. At BlueCross, Zink oversees corporate data management functions and leads the data science and analytics center of excellence. She also champions the use of data as a cross-corporate asset to drive more informed decision making for the company. Zink serves on several advisory boards and has a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management and an Associate of Science in Information Systems Technology.

Keynote Two: AI and Humans: The Role of AI in Work and Life

Bala Ramesh, Ph.D

Distinguished University Professor, George E. Smith Eminent Scholar’s Chair and chair of Robinson’s Department of Computer Information Systems

Bala Ramesh is a Distinguished University Professor, George E. Smith Eminent Scholar’s Chair and chair of Robinson’s Department of Computer Information Systems. His work focuses on modeling and supporting knowledge intensive activities in complex organizational contexts such as systems development with Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools and methods. His research work has appeared in over 100 journals and international conferences, including MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of Management Information Systems, Journal of the AIS, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, IEEE Internet of Things Journal, Requirements Engineering Journal, Annals of Software Engineering, Annals of Operations Research, and Decision Support Systems. His work has also appeared in several premier practice-oriented outlets such as Communications of the ACM, Sloan Management Review, IEEE Computer, IEEE Software, IEEE Internet Computing, IEEE Intelligent Systems, and IEEE IT Professional. Dr. Ramesh’s research has achieved a rare combination of success in significantly impacting both research and practice. His work on requirements traceability is among the most cited in the field of software engineering over the 50-year history of the field. His impact on practice is highlighted by the incorporation of his traceability reference models and mechanisms in several leading commercial systems and software engineering tools, including the most widely used product lifecycle management tool worldwide. During his career he has received over 20 externally funded grants, totaling nearly $ 16 million (including about $ 5.5 million as principal investigator). His research has been supported by several leading funding agencies, including the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, Axim Collaborative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Office of Naval Research, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Air Force Research Laboratory, DARPA, and Army Research Laboratory, among others. For his contributions to IS education, he has won numerous awards, including the Top Professor Award presented by graduate students eight times in the past eight years alone. He is also the recipient of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Hall of Fame Teaching Excellence Award, which is the highest recognition for teaching excellence in the entire University System of Georgia.

Lunch Keynote

Ashish Gupta

Globe Life Professor of Business Analytics, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University


The strides in deep learning and Reinforcement learning turbocharged the AI revolution in the previous decade. The current times are being dominated by the recent developments in LLMs, Generative AI, and scalable computing environments, which are causing the permeation of AI into our society and workplace at an unprecedented scale and scope. At the same time, building safer and more trustworthy AI systems is critical for managing this pace so the bright and dark side of AI development and usage can be balanced. Using examples from our research in healthcare, self-driving cars, and misinformation detection, we will provide insights into how some cutting-edge AI applications could address the vexing problems. Additionally, we will discuss some insights and new analytics paradigms that can guide the development of safer and more trustworthy AI systems.   


Ashish Gupta is a Globe Life Professor of Analytics within the Department of Business Analytics & Information Systems in Raymond J. Harbert College of Business at Auburn University with a courtesy appointment within the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Samuel Gin College of Eng. at Auburn University. He has been a (founding) director for an Analytics Research Center. He has held joint or visiting appointments at the Mayo Clinic Rochester, Biomedical Informatics at the Arizona State University, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. He has a Ph.D. in MSIS from the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University. At Auburn University, he established and manages a data science cluster (Barracuda) and a state-of-the-art Business Analytics Lab at the Harbert College of Business.

His research interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, healthcare informatics, IoT, sports analytics, and organizational and individual performance. His recent articles have appeared in premier academic and practitioner journals. He has published five edited research books. Professor Gupta’s research has been supported by various grant agencies and several private organizations and has received numerous awards. His work has been supported by various funding agencies such as DOD, DHS, NHTSA, THEC, etc. His efforts have led to grants exceeding 4 million Dollars.

Dr. Gupta has been invited to give keynote speeches and invited talks at conferences and national and international universities. He serves on the editorial boards of premier academic journals. He will serve as the Program co-chair for AMCIS 2025 in Montreal, Canada, and is Cum Laude Distinguished AIS member.