The Roux Institute at Northeastern University is partnering with Sun Life U.S., one of the largest group benefits providers in the country. Sun Life becomes the 11th corporate partner of the institute, which will open in Portland, Maine in September as an innovation hub for research and graduate education in technology and data science.
Sun Life, which has a major presence in Southern Maine, sees a partnership with the Roux Institute as an opportunity to educate current and future employees in programs tailored to its industry needs.
“We are trying to build up a stronger knowledge economy, and there really are no graduate programs in these fields in Maine today,” says Dan Fishbein, M.D., president of Sun Life U.S. and a longtime Maine resident. “At Sun Life we want to hire more talent with these backgrounds, and I know many other Maine employers share that goal. Bringing in these graduate programs through affiliation with a top university like Northeastern is a tremendous development for the state of Maine and for employers like Sun Life.”
A core mission of the Roux Institute is to educate generations of talent for the digital and life sciences sectors. Technology entrepreneur David Roux and his wife, Barbara, invested $100 million to support the institute’s future activities, with the goal of driving sustained economic growth in Portland, the state of Maine, and northern New England.
“At Northeastern, including at the Roux Institute, corporate partners are at the table with us from day one,” says Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern. “Together with Sun Life, our Roux Institute will customize curricula and opportunities that allow the company and its workforce to modernize and expand its presence in Maine. This is an exciting partnership.”
Sun Life will initially collaborate with the institute on research in the actuarial sciences, in which machine learning and other technologies will be married with data analytics to help form predictions for the insurance industry.
“If you think about it, actuaries are the original data scientists,” says Fishbein, whose company employs 200 actuarial staff in the U.S. “What we would like to do is infuse the latest data-science practices into our actuarial community. A first element of the partnership is to work with the Roux Institute to create that custom program for our actuarial population.”
The Roux Institute will offer post-baccalaureate courses, certificates, and master’s degrees in computer science, data analytics, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, cloud computing, bioinformatics, and project management, among others. The institute will also feature an experiential PhD program that is built around internships, fellowships, and other special initiative programs focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In cooperation with its partners and local government, the institute’s mission is to enable the growth of current businesses in Maine, attract new businesses to the region, and launch research ventures that are tailored to the needs of local companies.
The Roux Institute offers its partners customized educational opportunities for employees, new talent pipelines that can be accessed via co-ops and full-time hires, and research that responds to the needs of employers.
Sun Life joins a family of Roux Institute partners that includes:
- Bangor Savings Bank, the second-largest bank in Maine;
- IDEXX, a leader in pet healthcare innovation that provides veterinary products and services around the world;
- The Jackson Laboratory, an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Maine that has facilities in Connecticut, California, and Shanghai, China;
- L.L. Bean, an internationally recognized outdoor retailer;
- MaineHealth, the largest healthcare organization in Maine;
- PTC, a global software company with 6,000 employees in 30 countries;
- Thornton Tomasetti, a New York-based engineering consulting firm that has designed several of the world’s tallest buildings;
- Tilson, an international provider of network deployment and professional services to telecom, construction, utility, and government clients;
- Unum, a Fortune 500 company that provides benefits to employees of 193,000 businesses internationally;
- WEX, a global leader in financial technology that serves millions of companies.
For Sun Life, the proximity to the Roux Institute in Portland creates unique opportunities to continuously educate its workforce as its industries’ priorities and areas of focus evolve. The company has over 500 employees in Maine, and has plans to build a new office in downtown Portland with expanded capacity, across from the Roux Institute’s new founding location.
Portland, a hub for U.S. disability insurance talent, is emerging as an innovation center, and the downtown area has become a thriving business community
“We have been rethinking our whole strategy toward university partnerships with the idea that we should have at least one strong partnership at each of our major locations,” Fishbein says. “We were immediately interested in the idea of being a corporate partner with the Roux Institute.”