American Family Insurance to provide $20 million to UW for data science initiatives

Includes $10 million endowment to establish data science institute on campus

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Madison-based American Family Insurance announced today that it will provide $20 million to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for data science initiatives.

The funding will include $10 million for research, over the next 10 years, and a $10 million endowment to establish the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute on the campus.

In a news release, American Family said the funds “will spearhead the growth of UW–Madison’s research in
data science, supporting work that could push forward studies in fields as different as artificial intelligence, genetics, drug development, material science, and business. The emerging field of data science has its roots in computer science and statistics and is catalyzing unprecedented growth in the global economy.”

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“This latest partnership recognizes the importance of using data science to help our customers, by providing insights on the challenges they face and how best to take action to meet them,” said Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chairman and chief executive officer. “The institute will also develop a pipeline of potential future employees in the data science field, as well as provide valuable learning opportunities for our current employees.”

The institute will be located in the McArdle Building on the UW-Madison campus and Brian Yandell, professor of biometry, statistics and horticulture, will be the interim director.

“Creating the American Family Insurance Data Science Institute will bring faculty together from across campus to collaborate on cutting-edge research, spark new opportunities for our students, and give us new ways to work with industry partners,” said UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. “It will advance discoveries in sectors vital to the Wisconsin economy and make sure our university remains a leader in this important area of research.”

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This is not the first data science institute established in the state by business and academia. Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee partnered on a $40 million initiative to form the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute to develop a pipeline of data science talent for southeastern Wisconsin and foster data science research.

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