Springfield, Massachusetts — The University of Massachusetts Amherst’ computer science programs are receiving a $15 million donation from MassMutual, a Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s foundation. The funding will be released over ten years to boost the cybersecurity programs and data science, the University Friday at an event announcing the gift. This marks the largest charitable contribution the MassMutual Foundation makes for a local initiative.
MassMutual Foundation’s president Nick Fyntrilakis said UMass Amherst was already considered across the United States as a national leader in both cyber security and data science, the Boston Globe reported. He noted that there currently are 9,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the state which UMass Amherst could help cover.
He said the donation represented a significant opportunity to improve such status, adding that the funding would increase the number of trained data scientists and that it would consequently benefit the Pioneer Valley economy.
Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said at the event that the donation will pave the way for the state to become a national leader regarding cybersecurity, as reported by the Boston Herald. With $3 million, the university’s Cybersecurity Institute will be able to launch a safety training center based in Springfield.
The plans for the center include a certification program in cybersecurity that will allow students improve their skills on network security without the requirement of completing a four-year degree program, according to a report by the Boston Globe.
Victor Woolridge, head of the UMass Board of Trustees, said at the event held Friday that the nation is under attack, although the threats are not always visible. Rosenberg shared Woolridge’s assessment of the threat posed by cyber criminals, saying they have the potential to bring down entire systems and completely stop whole national defense systems, as reported by Mass Live.
Tracy Mitrano, who is an academic dean of the cybersecurity program, said it started several months ago with just eight students in the first class. The certificate program, which is open to college students, is comprised of four classes and 15 credit hours. Graduate students and other professionals seeking to burnish their credentials are also welcomed to take part.
Data Science for infinite applications
Another $12 million will go to UMass’ Center for Data Science, which focused on studying how to analyze great amounts of information regarding complex systems. Being able to get insights from data science implicates applications related medicine, retailing, national security and a wide variety of areas of knowledge. The funding will also help add courses that could benefit 28,000 students.
Andrew McCallum, who directs the Center for Data Science, said MassMutual may have been motivated to donate due to the remarkable results it is seeing after it hired some Ph.D. students from UMass.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the university is already using the first tranche of funding to jumpstart faculty hiring, given that the goal is to raise the number of members at the two facilities from its current 20 to 40.
Source: Boston Globe