campus news

UB student shines as future of AI at State of the State

Holliday Sims stands as she is introduced during Gov. Kathy Hochul's State of the State address.


Published January 10, 2024

“I believe in an exciting possibility for a future where AI plays a pivotal role in fostering positive societal change and creating more equitable opportunities within education and beyond. ”
Holliday Sims, senior computer science major

Holliday Sims is a tireless advocate for reducing inequities in computer science education, especially barriers that Black women face.

At UB, she has spent the past four years learning how to tackle this problem using artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

The senior computer science major’s commitment to using AI for social good is what led Gov. Kathy Hochul to invite Sims to her annual State of the State address in Albany, where the governor championed the creation of a $400 million state-of-the-art AI computing center called Empire AI.

“Let me tell you what Holliday is doing,” Hochul said Tuesday at the state Capitol. “She’s conducted research on how AI can improve the child welfare system, and she’s passionate about increasing Black women’s participation in computer science.”

When asked to stand by Hochul, the chamber responded with 20 seconds of applause for Sims, and Hochul concluded by saying that “Holliday and scholars like her, and our universities, will help build this industry in the future.”

Sims, who met Hochul after the speech, also met with SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr.; Merryl H. Tisch, chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees; and state Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. She is from Delmar, just outside of Albany.

Holliday Sims shows her UB pride and poses with SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. at the New York State Capitol in Albany.

“I believe in an exciting possibility for a future where AI plays a pivotal role in fostering positive societal change and creating more equitable opportunities within education and beyond,” Sims said prior to Hochul’s speech. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State 2024 address. It is a privilege to witness firsthand the vision and initiatives that will shape our state’s future.”

Empire AI would bring together UB with other SUNY institutions, the City University of New York, as well as private universities and foundations in New York, to promote responsible research and development, create jobs and promote solutions to a spectrum of societal problems.

UB, a SUNY flagship and international leader in AI and data science, is under consideration as a potential site for Empire AI, Hochul announced Monday prior to her speech.

President Satish K. Tripathi lauded the governor’s proposal, as well as the presence of Sims at the governor’s address. 

“We are delighted that Holliday had the opportunity to attend the State of the State address as an invited guest of the governor,” he said. “Gov. Hochul’s invitation to Holliday recognizes this remarkable UB student’s boundless potential in computer science, and her demonstrated commitment to achieving equity in computing education. We look forward to seeing all that Holliday accomplishes in pursuit of her goals — and, in the short term, to hearing about her visit to the state Capitol when she returns to UB for the spring semester.”

Kemper Lewis, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said Sims embodies the school’s mission to serve and support students who are committed to developing equitable, creative and inclusive solutions to societal and educational challenges.

“We are immensely proud of Holliday and all of her academic success and remarkable impact. Her ambition to utilize the expansive capabilities of AI and machine learning to improve the lives of children by addressing inequalities in computing education is both inspiring and an embodiment of our school’s mission to prepare our graduates to develop equitable solutions to societal challenges,” Lewis said. “The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is honored to be part of Holliday’s academic journey.”