P&C insurer Sentry Insurance, located in Stevens Point, Wisc., has donated $4 million to the University of Wisconsin campus in its hometown with the goal of growing data analytics talent.

The gift, which is the largest Sentry has ever made, endows two faculty positions. The Sentry Insurance Endowed Chair in Computational Analytics will be part of the Computing and New Media Technologies Department. The Sentry Insurance Endowed Chair in Business Analytics will be part of the School of Business and Economics.

"Sentry needs employees with both of these business and computational analytics skills," the company wrote in an announcement. "Interviews with local employers from retail, manufacturing, health care, agriculture, insurance and software development industries in 2015 revealed a growing data analytics talent gap in the region."

The faculty will support a new undergraduate major in data analytics, beginning in fall 2016, pending UW Board of Regents approval. The program will feature an interdisciplinary curriculum that integrates the fields of business, computer science, economics, geographic information systems, mathematics and statistics.

“The availability of data as well as the technology to imaginatively use the data has been growing exponentially in recent years,” said Pete McPartland, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Sentry Insurance, in the statement. "Employers have not been able to train data analytics professionals fast enough to keep pace with the growing demand. Sentry's commitment to helping fund the creation of a data analytics program at UWSP will help employers benefit from the rapidly changing world of data availability and usage."

Endowment proceeds will support activities such as collaborative research, outreach and related student-faculty activities of the chair. National searches for analytics experts will begin immediately.

Sentry follows insurers like MassMutual, Nationwide, and State Farm who have partnered with area colleges specifically to support data and analytics 

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