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MassMutual and University of Vermont expand groundbreaking Data Science partnership

October 5th, 2018

$5 million gift establishes MassMutual Center for Complex Systems and Data Science

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. and Burlington, Vt., October 5, 2018 – Expanding its relationship with the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Complex Systems Center, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) announced today that it is providing $5 million in funding to further advance study and research in the field of data science and analytics.

The funding, to be provided over five years beginning in 2019, will include the establishment of 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.

“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.”

In addition to the establishment of the center, the expanded partnership between MassMutual and UVM includes the creation of 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.

The initial research projects that will be conducted at the MassMutual Center of Excellence include study in the following areas:

  • 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.

“We are extremely excited to be entering into this next phase of our partnership with the Vermont Complex Systems Center. This is a world class lab at the forefront of improving our understanding of fundamental socio-economic issues through modern, data-driven research,” said Sears Merritt, Chief Data Scientist, Head of Data Science and Advanced Analytics. “Our 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. At the same time, we aim to drive talent development through research and publication.”

The Vermont Complex Systems Center supports data science and complex systems education through interdisciplinary learning, and the Center’s master’s and doctorate level graduates have gone on to work for leading data science teams in the private sector at major U.S. and international companies. Negotiated with assistance from the UVM Foundation’s Corporate & Foundation Relations office, the data science initiative with MassMutual represents the largest single corporate collaboration with the Center since its inception in 2009.

"This significant investment in UVM represents a milestone for us,” said UVM President Tom Sullivan. “Our distinguished faculty and programs are capable of dynamic, large scale partnerships that permit the University to create this Center of Excellence with MassMutual, a company named one of the top fifty most ethical companies in the world. We couldn't have a better partner to share UVM's passion for wellness in this exciting endeavor."

“We are incredibly excited to partner with MassMutual for our new Center of Excellence in Complex Systems and Data Science,” said Peter Dodds, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at UVM and director of the university’s Complex Systems Center. “The MassMutual Center will be a wellspring of research into people-centric systems, guided by our core ethos to make the world a better place: healthier, happier, fairer, and more productive and creative. The Center will also boost our established educational programs to help students at all levels become the ethical, powerful data scientists that the world needs.''

This latest initiative with the Vermont Complex Systems Center underscores MassMutual’s ongoing commitment to data science and cyber initiatives. This includes a $2 million, four-year program with Mount Holyoke College and Smith College to provide funding to hire five visiting faculty positions, support the development of a data science-focused curriculum and promote greater diversity in the field. MassMutual also opened a state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot data science lab in Amherst, Mass. and the MassMutual Foundation has donated $15 million to UMass Amherst over 10 years to further strengthen the university’s data science and cybersecurity programs in Western Massachusetts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The field of data science draws on statistical methods to answer questions in an array of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Graduates work in fields ranging from medicine to environmental science, actuarial professions and statistics.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit

About the Vermont Complex Systems Center
The Vermont Complex Systems Center, established in 2009, is an interdisciplinary research and teaching center at the University of Vermont that is focused on complex systems, data science/data analytics, computation, social contagion, and machine learning. Housed in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, the Center’s research explores human behavior, relational networks, health and biology, evolutionary robotics, weather prediction, and measuring happiness, among other things. The program offers a Master’s degree in Complex Systems and Data Science, a Certificate of Graduate Study in Complex Systems, and supports Ph.D. students focused on complex systems and data science.

About The University of Vermont Foundation
The University of Vermont Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont (UVM), one of the nation’s premier small research universities. The UVM Foundation, in partnership with the University and the University of Vermont Medical Center, is currently engaged in a comprehensive fundraising campaign with five strategic priorities: student access and scholarship; faculty research and support; student-centered programs; patient- and family-centered clinical care; and long-term investment in facilities. Move Mountains: The Campaign for The University of Vermont surpassed its initial goal of $500 million in private support in July 2018, and will conclude on June 30, 2019. For further information about giving to UVM, contact the University of Vermont Foundation, 411 Grasse Mount, Burlington VT 05401; 802-656-2010; email For corporate engagement opportunities, contact Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Alexa Woodward at