Vivek Suri

The Office of Career Strategy became the first Yale entity to adopt an artificial intelligence bot this month to help students navigate its website, which will make navigating the resources of the Office of Career Strategy easier.

The bot, developed by a company called Ivy, launched on ocs.yale.edu after winter break. Instead of searching for information by keywords, students are now able to type their queries into the chat bot’s window, which will, in turn, pull resources from the website using AI technology.

“Students are entering [the website’s] resources with their specific searches in mind, so we have been trying to think for a while now about how to get a tool that will help students navigate our resources,” said Office of Career Strategy Director Jeanine Dames. “Around the same time, AI has [started gaining popularity]. … That was the type of thing that we were looking for.”

Ivy has already partnered with some of Yale’s peer institutions, including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, the chat bot answered more than 13,000 inquiries within the first 5 months of its implementation, according to a company blog post. The post also states that the bot can even answer questions that could previously only be answered by workers, such as what the average salary of an economics major is.

Dames said that the University originally started working on the bot over the summer and allowed students who came to counselling sessions over the fall to use the bot on the Office of Career Strategy computers to help teach it. So far, the bot has been asked over 700 questions, only around 90 of which received no answer.

Dames added that, as the Office of Career Strategy continues to develop the bot, she is hoping to teach it to pull out more concrete statistical data too. She said that the office hopes that, with time, students will be able to find most of the information they need from the Office of Career Strategy online.

Derek Webster, Office of Career Strategy associate director for the arts, said that the initial development phase of the bot consisted of the bot crawling the Office of Career Strategy’s website and picking up searchable elements on its own. The more students use the bot in the future, he said, the more it will “‘learn’ patterns of association that help improve its suggested returns.” He added that the Office of Career Strategy administrators regularly review the suggestions that the bot gives out, as well as the questions that the bot could not answer, “to help accelerate and condition the learning process.” If the bot is stumped by the question, Dames said, users can fill out an email form that pops up in the bot’s window, and a person from Office of Career Strategy will answer their question as quickly as possible.

“The Office of Career Strategy website is a tremendous career resource, both as an archive for guides, tutorials and process recommendations and as a referral for additional resources available outside of our office,” Webster said. “With that content volume comes the downside that it can at times be hard to navigate so much information. As the [bot] continues to evolve, I think it will become a fantastic tool to help students get the most out of their experience with [our website].”

Dames said she was surprised to see how many people outside of Yale have already used the resource. In particular, there have been a lot of questions from prospective students, which prompted the office to teach the bot to redirect such queries to the admissions office website.

She added that, though Office of Career Strategy is the first Yale entity to adopt such a technology, if the bot is found to be useful, it could eventually appear on the websites of other Yale offices. In that case, all bots would interlink among different offices’ websites, she said.

The field of AI research emerged at a summer workshop in Dartmouth College in 1956.

Anastasiia Posnova | anastasiia.posnova@yale.edu