MassMutual boosts U of Vermont data science with $5 million program

MassMutual is expanding its support of data science study at the University of Vermont in a big way.

Just more than a year after donating $500,000 to the school's Complex Systems Center, the life insurer says it is providing $5 million in additional funding over five years beginning in 2019. The money will establish the MassMutual Center of Excellence for Complex Systems and Data Science, which will initiate research projects and programs aimed at better understanding human wellness through data analytics, as well as programming to cultivate a strong pipeline of data science talent, according to the company.

“This new center will provide students with the opportunity to gain deeper insights into data assets, publish their findings, and ultimately identify trends in health and wellness to help people live healthier lives,” said Roger Crandall, MassMutual’s Chairman, President and CEO. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with UVM to foster greater talent in the data science field and working together to find new ways to harness the power of data to make a positive impact on our world.”

The money also supports a paid MassMutual fellowship for Ph.D. students, a visualization data artist-in-residence program for early-career data scientists, and funding for research and mentorship programs for undergraduate, postgraduate and Ph.D. students. Initial projects will focus in these areas, MassMutual says:

· Longevity and wellness, including the link between physical and financial health and environmental impacts on wellness.
· Algorithmic fairness, accountability and transparency, which will encompass alternative underwriting data, methods for controlling bias and data ethics.
· Measurement methodologies for large scale social systems, covering such topics as macroeconomic events, mortality risk and social cohesion, among others.

“ur collective efforts here will improve understanding of the physical and financial determinants of wellness in the United States, and create actionable results that advance our industry and society at large.” says Sears Merritt, MassMutual’s Chief Data Scientist, Head of Data Science and Advanced Analytics. “At the same time, we aim to drive talent development through research and publication.”

[Go inside MassMutual's data science lab with Merritt]

MassMutual is also supporting data-science development at colleges closer to its Springfield, Mass. headquarters. It is in the midst of a $2 million program with Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges, and delivered a $15 million grant to UMASS to support data science and cybersecurity skills development.

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