School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Artificial and ethical – Meet Stephanie Kelley 

PhD Candidate in Management

by Phil Gaudreau

Stephanie Kelley

When Stephanie Kelley left Kingston for grade school, she never thought she’d be coming back.

A few years later, when Stephanie Kelley graduated from the Commerce program at Queen’s and left Kingston for a promising job opportunity in Toronto, she thought that was it.

Six years later, when Stephanie Kelley completed her Master’s in Management Analytics (MMA) through Queen’s, she realized how much she enjoyed Queen’s and being back in the classroom.

Stephanie is now two years into her PhD at Smith School of Business, studying the ethics of artificial intelligence at the organizational level.

“When I was considering enrolling in my master’s program, I didn't see an option other than Queen’s because the MMA is such a unique program,” she said. “During the program I started to realize how much I was enjoying being back at school and how much I enjoyed my studies. When I decided to pursue the PhD, I realized once again the opportunity I was looking for wasn't available anywhere else. With their focus on analytics and AI, Smith has once again found white space in the education market.”

Stephanie is currently wrapping up her classes and about to launch full-time into her research. Her PhD thesis work focuses on the ethics of artificial intelligence in the financial services industry. Her concern, which has been substantiated through different media reports over the years, is that while some view analytics and AI as ethically neutral, these data-driven technologies have several ethical implications that organizations must deal with including bias, accountability, data privacy, and explainability, amongst others.

“There are a lot of people looking at the actual algorithms but there's not as many people looking at how those algorithms and how the decisions in organizations actually interplay,” she says. “I'm trying to tie together the decisions made at the executive level with the nitty gritty technical decisions made by the data scientists.”

To that end, during the first year of her PhD Stephanie wrote a code of conduct for the ethical use of artificial intelligence in the financial services industry – a code which has since been adopted by Scotiabank, and groups at TD, and RBC. The World Economic Forum is also working with Stephanie to share the code more broadly around the world.

“I had the opportunity to work at Scotiabank for a couple months last summer, thanks to the Scotiabank Centre we have here at Smith,” she says. “I worked in their data science and analytics department and I had access to all areas of the bank, which really helped fuel and inspire some of the research that I'm doing right now. It was interesting to be able to apply some of the academic theory to industry practice.”

Thanks to Kingston’s proximity to major city centres like Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal, Stephanie is able to work closely with her industry contacts and keep in touch with many of her former colleagues. But her years at Queen’s have convinced her that her career will almost certainly be in academia.

“There's so much to learn and so much to continue learning especially because A.I. is just changing every day,” she says. “And, for me, that's really the exciting piece. You can learn as much as you can but we don't know what we don't know. I also really enjoy applying my research to industry practice, and look forward to doing some more teaching; I quite enjoy the traditional statistics and econometrics bit of analytics.”

Even with all those questions still unanswered, Stephanie still makes time to be a teaching assistant, to keep physically fit at CrossFit Queen Street, and visit friends and family. Though Stephanie may not have seen herself completing three degrees through Queen’s when she first left town, upon reflection the path was clear.

“Queen’s has this unique tie between great history, a lot of expertise in education, and they are also small enough to be able to adapt,” she says. “They've created these unique analytics and AI programs and tied that together with a huge amount of business experience. That unique combination has made Queen’s a great school for me. And a great school for a lot of people.”

Learn about Smith School of Business’ PhD and professional master’s programs in analytics and AI at smith.queensu.ca.