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New Academic Innovation + Intelligence Lab drives success for every student

The Office of Undergraduate Studies is pleased to announce the establishment of The Academic Innovation + Intelligence Lab (The A.I.I., or “A double i”), a cross-functional group that uses research, data, and intervention to clear paths for students to succeed. Its goal is to drive steady, continuous change by creating, implementing, and scaling viable interventions that enable every student to have an exceptional educational experience. Specifically, the lab investigates processes, explores new pedagogical approaches, tests new technologies and tools, uses data analysis and visualization to unearth new understanding, and shares its insights nationwide.

The A.I.I. is a culmination of multiple collaborative academic innovation efforts the university has engaged in for many years. Led by Jim Agutter, A.I.I. lab director, and senior associate dean for Faculty Success & Academic Innovation, it will fold in a long line of internally funded efforts to optimize university operations, remove barriers to student success, and transform how the U delivers exceptional education experiences for all.

“We stand at the precipice of a transformative era in undergraduate education at the University of Utah,” said T. Chase Hagood, senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Our vision with the A.I.I. is to create a nexus of innovation and intelligence that propels student success to new heights. By blending research, data, and interventions, the lab represents a commitment to continuous, evidence-based evolution in our teaching, learning, and success strategies. We invite creative thinkers and curious minds to join with us in this spirit of innovation. Together, we will not only navigate the changing landscape of higher education but also chart new paths of success for students and faculty at the U and beyond.”

The A.I.I. will also strengthen the university’s partnership with the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a leading coalition of public institutions that fund, test, and scale interventions to bridge equity gaps and power student success for all. Working closely with the U’s UIA Extend Group (a campus-wide group of faculty and staff), it will incubate and coordinate UIA-sponsored projects with direction and management from UIA Fellow Lindsay Coco, special assistant to the SAVPAA/dean of Undergraduate Studies. Hagood and Senior Advisor in the Office of the President Laura Snow will shepherd projects as the university’s UIA Liaisons.

In 2023, the UIA launched The Academic Recovery Project, sponsored by Ascendium and The Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation, to systematically explore and test interventions for gateway courses with high failure rates. The U received a two-year grant to support students who have previously earned a DE or W (drop, E-grade, withdraw) in graduation-critical classes and are looking to retake the course. As a UIA initiative, it leverages Georgia State University’s Accelerator Academy Model as a base framework, which it will apply locally, analyze, fine-tune, and relay back to other participating UIA institutions. 

To activate the model on the U’s campus, the A.I.I. team collaborated with the Department of Mathematics, Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, school/college Academic Advising offices, and the UIA Extend Group to establish the student-facing U Succeed Program, which piloted a Math 1050 (College Algebra) course during the summer semester of 2023 and is currently being offered during Spring 2024. Once the team assesses findings, the pilot will be replicated in three more courses to create a sustainable, scalable program.x

Other ongoing A.I.I. initiatives seek to rebuild parts of our academic infrastructure in measured ways: a chatbot to route students to resources, a predictive analytics platform (Navigate U) that harnesses data to make better operational decisions, and a Listening Lab Program to systematically collect and hear student needs. But its audience isn’t just administrators or students; it’s faculty, too. An emerging effort in this space is the Teaching Excellence Framework, a project that aims to help faculty assess their impact by centralizing student course feedback, peer reviews, and instructor reflection. Birthed from pure experimentation and prototyping, the team discovered that tools from OpenAI could transform qualitative data into legible, succinct, and actionable insights.

The A.I.I. uses curiosity at its core to drive all projects and lab operations. As a Design Thinking-informed group that seeks understanding and asks questions before positing answers, the A.I.I. carefully selects members for each of its integrated project teams to ensure critical voices are heard. The team invites undergraduate and graduate students, faculty fellows and advisors, seasoned administrators, and working design professionals to participate, learn, and lead. In this way, working across units to do the hard, detailed work of innovation and implementation is the default for the A.I.I. rather than the exception.

For more information on The A.I.I.’s projects, people, and processes, please visit Its doors are open, and it is currently recruiting students for a Canvas 2.0 effort to participate and lead.