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April 10, 2019

$2M gift supports Colby College's data science initiative

Colby College Courtesy / Colby College Colby College students will have greater opportunities to work on projects involving data science, thanks to a $2 million commitment from Rick McVey, founder, chairman, and CEO of financial technology firm MarketAxess.

A $2 million commitment to Colby College will support the launch of a new initiative that will integrate data science into the curriculum across the disciplines, from social and natural sciences to the humanities.

The college said in a news release that the multidisciplinary data science program will give students the opportunity to work closely with faculty in developing, researching and answering complex analysis and visualization — skills seen as increasingly important in businesses that increasingly use data to inform decision-making.

The gift from Rick McVey, founder, chairman, and CEO of financial technology firm MarketAxess, also will support Colby’s women’s lacrosse team, on which both of McVey’s daughters played when they were students at Colby, the college stated.

“We are incredibly fortunate for the vision and generosity of Rick McVey,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “He sees every day the importance of using the analysis of complex data sets to influence decisions, as well as the importance of teamwork and competition in the business world. His gift is making an immediate impact on Colby students, and the skills they develop here will serve them long after they graduate.”

Data science's rising importance

Student/faculty research projects in the new multidisciplinary data science initiative will being this summer. Projects will be in disciplines ranging from environmental studies and economics to psychology and sociology.

“Data science is fundamentally about the creation of new knowledge,” said Provost Margaret McFadden, who has led a large group of faculty members from across the disciplines in developing the initiative. “It begins with asking the right questions, which has always been at the heart of what we do at Colby.”

Graduates with these skills are increasingly important in all kinds of industries and research fields, said McVey, whose firm has hired several Colby graduates, including three from the Class of 2019.

“Data science is gaining such momentum that as savvy students consider fields they are also considering where technology is going in those fields and how that could influence their future careers,” said McVey. “We have found Colby alumni — from a variety of majors — to be exceptionally prepared to make important contributions to our business decisions.”

Colby plans to build on its pioneering interdisciplinary coursework and research opportunities in data science to create a larger-scale program incorporating leading-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and advanced data visualization.

$500K to Colby women's lacrosse

McVey’s commitment includes $500,000 to women’s lacrosse, which has become one of Colby’s most competitive programs under Head Coach Karen MacCrate Henning. The team has made the New England Small College Athletic Conference finals in six of the last 11 years, winning the title three times, most recently in 2017. It also has made eight NCAA appearances under Henning’s leadership during her 12 seasons as head coach.

Colby College has made significant capital investments in its athletic programs in recent years, including all-new fields for lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, baseball, softball, football and rugby that have been introduced in the last three years. In 2020 its 350,000-square-foot athletics center will open, providing Colby students and the broader community with first-rate facilities for hockey, basketball, squash, volleyball, crew, swimming and diving, track and field, and general health and wellness activities.

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