MassMutual to Partner with Mount Holyoke, Smith to Develop Women in Data Science Program

Four-year initiative to hire professors, create curriculum for women in the expanding arena of data science and related fields

Feb 12, 2015, 10:15 ET from MassMutual

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Feb. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to create a strong pipeline of qualified women professionals in the rapidly growing field of data science and related subjects, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) today announced that it is partnering with Mount Holyoke College and Smith College – both established leaders in educating women – to pilot a groundbreaking, higher education initiative: the MassMutual Women in Data Science program.

Aimed at providing a deep undergraduate education in an increasingly in-demand specialty, the partnership furthers MassMutual's efforts to create and implement a comprehensive data science curriculum, and underscores the company's commitment to developing a strong core of data science capabilities in Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley.  

"This initiative speaks volumes to the importance we place on developing smart, new talent in the emerging field of data science," said Roger Crandall, Chairman, President and CEO, MassMutual. "MassMutual is proud to partner with these two outstanding colleges to further the advancement of women in this exciting and important discipline."

The $2 million, four-year program, which will begin in the fall of 2015, will be funded exclusively through MassMutual, and will provide Mount Holyoke (South Hadley, Mass.) and Smith (Northampton, Mass.) the resources to hire five visiting faculty positions, as well as support the development of a data science-focused curriculum. The faculty would teach in such areas as natural language processing, machine learning, behavioral economics, applied statistics and various computer science specialties. Additionally, students in either of the two colleges will be able to take courses with any of the associated professors.

Instructors at both Mount Holyoke and Smith noted that students at liberal arts colleges who are pursuing studies and research in fields such as computer science, mathematics and statistics are increasingly seeking to connect their technical skills directly to real-world challenges and events.

"Mount Holyoke College is committed to educating a talented and diverse group of future women leaders, and to innovation in this emerging field; a field that is all about asking the right questions, identifying patterns, generating narratives from those patterns, and responding ethically to the challenges posed by data," said Sonya Stephens, Mount Holyoke's Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dean of Faculty. "This partnership with MassMutual offers a tremendous opportunity to connect liberal learning and the Data Science initiative at the College to opportunities that exist in both the academy and the workforce."

"Smith has long been known for educating women who lead in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields," said Smith College Provost Katherine Rowe, who noted that the new program will build on existing areas of strength at Smith. "This collaboration will enable Smith to explore new directions in an emerging discipline where we are seeing increasing excitement among students. It creates opportunities for Smith students and will significantly expand the pool of talented women leaders in this field."

The MassMutual Women in Data Science program follows closely the August 2014 creation of the Amherst, Mass.-based MassMutual Data Science Development program. The cutting-edge effort furthers the company's commitment to the advancement of data science, with a particular emphasis on building a critical mass of this talent in the five-college area, which in addition to Smith and Mount Holyoke includes Amherst College, Hampshire College (Amherst) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The current MassMutual data science program looks to hire between five and 10 recent graduates annually from top colleges in the fields of math, computer science or statistics. Over a three-year period, the new employees are provided a combination of coursework, applied projects within MassMutual and training; all of which are the equivalent of a post-graduate degree.

Professors sponsored as part of the Women in Data Science program will support this program by teaching various related courses to the development group.

"Our long-term goal is to develop a team of data scientists in the region, leveraging the already strong programs these schools have in place in math, statistics and computer science," said Sears Merritt, Ph.D., Chief Data Scientist, MassMutual. "Through our partnership with Mount Holyoke, Smith and other schools in the region – we are confident that the Pioneer Valley will be a tremendous source of young, talented data scientists."

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
Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policyowners consistently since the 1860s. With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities. In addition, the company's strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.

MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and its major affiliates include: Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MassMutual International LLC; MML Investors Services, LLC, Member FINRA and SIPC; OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB.

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Michael McNamara

SOURCE MassMutual