University of San Diego Hires Tech Privacy Expert to Lead New Center for Data, AI and Society

The University of San Diego (USD) is proud to announce and welcome Maritza Johnson as the director of a new center focused on data science, artificial intelligence and society. In this pioneering role, Johnson will be responsible for developing the center.

Maritza JohnsonJohnson is a widely respected data privacy and security professional who joins USD from Google, where she was most recently a senior user experience researcher. She holds a PhD in computer science from Columbia University and earned her bachelor’s in computer science from USD in 2005. She has lectured at University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Diego, and has published in the areas of data privacy and security.

“I know from experience that USD has a great culture around the humanities and liberal arts, as well as a Changemaking spirit. I’m extremely excited to join this community which is already primed to explore how we can responsibly use data as a tool for empowerment to create change in society,” said Johnson. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we can instill that in our students and envision programs that really live up to that.”

While the center is yet to be named, it will be led by USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, which houses the university’s computer science programs. One goal of the center will be to engage the entire campus around issues of big data and artificial intelligence, and their social implications — ethics, privacy and fairness.

“It’s essential that a liberal arts institution like USD provides a space for a robust conversation around topics of data, security and privacy, which are affecting all of us.” said Chell Roberts, PhD, dean of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. “Maritza Johnson brings a wealth of experience from the tech industry, and I and my colleagues across campus are thrilled to work with her to bring this center to life.”

The University of San Diego currently offers programs in business analytics, data science, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity engineering, as well as courses in digital humanities. Johnson will partner with colleagues across the entire university to help make data science and artificial intelligence a truly interdisciplinary collaboration for all students and faculty. In addition to acting as a hub for the USD community, the center will serve the broader public through consulting outreach, lectures and events as we explore the far-reaching impacts of these topics.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Daniel Telles
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