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Philly Power Moves: Penn bets on AI with its first vice dean dedicated to the tech

Plus, Benefits Data Trust joins Google AI program, and the Economy League shuffles leadership.

Benefits Data Trust in Center City. (Courtesy Benefits Data Trust)

Artificial intelligence hasn’t taken over humans — yet — but it does impact two of this month’s Power Moves.

Starting in academia, AI takes center stage at the top levels. The University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine announced its first vice dean of artificial intelligence and computing. Penn continues to invest in AI in different areas of the University, including undergraduate and graduate AI degrees in its engineering school.

Plus, Benefits Data Trust will participate in a Google AI accelerator and the Economy League announced new directors.

Penn’s first vice dean of AI

The University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine selected Marylyn D. Ritchie as its first vice dean of artificial intelligence and computing.

The creation of this role comes from Penn’s commitment to integrating AI and computing into the school’s research, according to the university’s five-year strategic plan. Ritchie will work with Penn’s leadership to develop an AI and computing strategy and apply it to Penn Medicine through research, education and healthcare.

“Dr. Ritchie uniquely understands how technological advances require us to lead in data-driven research, teaching, and applications,” said Jon Epstein, MD, interim executive vice president and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, “while we also ensure we deploy powerful technologies beneficially and responsibly.”

Among other roles, Ritchie also works as a professor in the department of genetics and director of the Institute for Biomedical Informatics, which coordinates AI projects for Penn’s medical school.

BDT joins Google’s generative AI accelerator

Benefits Data Trust (BDT), a nonprofit focused on using data to increase access to benefits, and 20 other national organizations joined the Accelerator: Generative AI.

This six-month program focuses on helping nonprofits integrate generative AI into their work through workshops, technical training, mentors and access to an AI coach. Google is also contributing $20 million to the participating organizations.

BDT’s project uses large language models to build an AI assistant that will help workers connect applicants with public benefits. Google staff will help BDT build the tool through the company’s six month fellowship program.

“This program will help us advance our work in harnessing the power of AI to improve benefit programs like SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid for eligible families and the program administrators behind the scenes making it happen,” BDT wrote on LinkedIn.

BDT recently announced a partnership with software development and public benefit corporation Nava PBC to research how AI can support public benefit assistance. The organization also launched an AI Learning Hub earlier this year to dig into responsible AI usage.

The Economy League announces leadership transitions

Kenyatta James is the new deputy executive director for the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. James previously led the Philadelphia Anchors for Growth and Equity (PAGE) program, which connects minority-owned businesses with anchor institutions in the region.

James, formerly a RealLIST Connector in Philly, will be taking over for the previous deputy executive director and fellow RealLIST Connector alum J’nelle Lawrence. Lawrence has not publicly confirmed where she’ll work next.

As James leaves his role as PAGE director, Melina Harris steps up to fill in. Harris will be promoted from her position as an impact analyst and capital access coordinator for the Economy League.

“Guiding the PAGE team has instilled in me a profound appreciation for the efficacy of collaboration and strategic planning in addressing entrenched systemic challenges,” James told “As deputy director, I eagerly anticipate forging fresh partnerships and enhancing internal support structures to amplify the impact of the Economy League’s programming.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Benefits Data Trust / Economy League of Greater Philadelphia / University of Pennsylvania
Series: Power Moves

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