We are excited to announce that Michael L. Littman, Ph.D., The Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science at Brown University, will be this year’s Commencement speaker. Littman studies machine learning and, through his humorous approach to science communication, he seeks to engage audiences around the applications and implications of artificial intelligence. He has earned multiple awards for teaching and for his research on reinforcement learning, probabilistic planning, and automated crossword-puzzle solving.
“As we gather to celebrate the Class of 2022, incredible students who have accomplished so much even during the prolonged challenges of the pandemic, we look forward to hearing Michael Littman’s reflections on what it means to be human in an age of machine learning and what computers can teach us about life,” says Head of School Allison Gaines Pell P’23, P’25. “We are eager to welcome and learn from him in June!”
Littman previously visited Wheeler at the invitation of the Upper School’s Programming Team. “Michael Littman’s light-hearted approach to life and his engaging style of teaching make him a fantastic choice for our graduation speaker,” says William Kopans ’22, one of the club’s leaders. “In 2020, he came to campus to speak to students about machine learning, and he later graciously invited students to his lab at Brown. Professor Littman studies decision-making with uncertainty. And although he studies decision-making in a different context, I cannot think of a more practical field of research as our senior class embarks on the next chapter of our lives.”
Littman is an enthusiastic performer who has helped many people learn more about computer science and creative problem-solving through the educational and often humorous videos on his popular YouTube channel. He is also the author of a forthcoming book from MIT Press about why everyone should learn to program.
As he considers Wheeler’s upcoming Commencement, Littman knows that many–if not all–of the graduates are closely connected to computers and computer technology. “I want to encourage them to reflect on what it all means,” he says. He is also thinking about what role our relationship with computers can play as we face the future. “Every generation has its challenges, but I think this cohort’s challenges are particularly acute. I’d really like the chance to thank them in advance for engaging with the tough road ahead. And to celebrate with them, of course!”
Littman will address the Wheeler Class of 2022 at the school’s June 10 Commencement. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website: littmania.com.