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Cornell introduces new AI-focused Board Governance program

Blending resilience and risk is essential for companies that intend to survive today’s tech innovations, economic uncertainty and political pendulum swings. The greater the challenges, the greater the demand for leaders who can deliver an effective mix of foresight and strategic oversight.

Board Governance: Navigating Emerging Technologies and More in a Complex World, a new Cornell Tech immersion program slated for this fall, is set to prepare corporate board members for fast-paced evolutions in artificial intelligence (AI), geopolitics, cybersecurity, supply chains, sustainability and other areas driving the future of commerce.

"In the dynamic business landscape, where ambiguity and progress must converge, companies need leaders capable of steering in uncharted territory,” said LizAnn Eisen, faculty director for the certificate program and acting professor of practice at Cornell Law School and Cornell Tech. “Success at the board level starts with a firm grasp on the big-picture view of mission-critical opportunities. This program will give leaders the perspective and skills they need to ask good questions and make decisions in rapidly evolving times.”

Participants will join prominent legal practitioners, former government regulators, senior professionals and Cornell faculty to discuss best practices and leadership tactics during a virtual session through eCornell on Oct. 31 and an in-person summit on Nov. 3 and 4 at Cornell Tech in New York City.

The program offers presentations, panel discussions and networking events designed specifically for current board members of public and private companies. Participants will explore matters in AI, data privacy, algorithmic bias and antitrust. The small cohort size is intended to ensure high-quality peer-to-peer engagement on key issues and solutions that participants can directly apply to their organizations.

According to Eisen, who also serves as a senior partner for the early-stage investment firm Braven Partners, the program exemplifies “the best of Cornell bringing together resources from multiple schools for radical collaboration and a university-wide priority.” While the summit will cover several subjects applicable to various industries, she expects AI’s business case and downstream consequences to remain top of mind in conversations.

“Similar to some historic transformative technologies, AI has the power to transform both the front and back ends of businesses. It can drive efficiencies and improve capabilities,” Eisen said. “Given the explosive growth of AI, we thought it was important to offer this hands-on, premium program to equip board members with information and tools to guide their companies on the implications of this tech.”

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, visiting lecturer in information technology for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management and fellow for the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, encourages board members to focus on leveraging AI for business value.

“Boards should ask questions about the specific AI project a company wants to pursue, especially the business case, whether the company has the right skills, key partners, etc. They should ask questions about potential problems – not whether AI poses an existential risk to humanity but major legal issues like copyright infringement, regulatory issues like those being considered by the EU and potential cybersecurity issues,” said Wladawsky-Berger, a featured speaker for the Board Governance program.

In addition to gathering insights from discussions, attendees will interact with simulations of real-world scenarios, including a cybersecurity crisis, to gain firsthand experience with threats their organizations could face and prepare for newly adopted cyber incident disclosure obligations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bill Priestap, former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and founder of Trenchcoat Advisors, contends that it is critical to empower executives and board leaders with a deep understanding of the conditions, and opportunities, at hand.

“One of the first things boards should do is to acknowledge the risk environment is bad, and it’s highly unlikely it’s going to get better any time soon. It’s more likely it’s going to get worse. That means we need to plan for it. It is no longer business as usual. Geopolitical and related security risks can’t be an afterthought today,” said Priestap, a featured speaker in the program. “You’ve got to lay a risks lens over the most important decisions your business is making – whether it’s expansion, investment, hiring, due diligence or security of the organization.”

Individuals interested in the Board Governance program can enroll online through Oct. 20, but space is limited.

To preview topics that will be covered during the fall summit, view the “Board Governance: Risks and Opportunities in a Complex World” Keynote webcast.

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