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Addressing global challenges, one data point at a time

TD gift to help turn information into insight

by Kathryn Kinahan, BA’86, MLIS’93 | January 2, 2018

Thanks to a $1-million gift from TD Bank Group, Western is poised to become one of the country’s leading institutions in data analytics.

Author Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game not only chronicled the resurgence of the Oakland A’s professional baseball team, but showcased to the world how data analytics could offer insights into areas previously thought immune to the influence of big data.

Today, big data is more than a game.

From disaster risk mitigation and health-care analysis to banking and real-time brain imaging, data is playing an important role in analyzing, and helping solve, some of the most critical issues facing the world today.

Recognizing the important role data analytics plays in the future, as well as Western’s leadership in the discipline, TD Bank Group donated $1-million to the Faculty of Science to support data analytics research and teaching at the university.

“Our customers lead increasingly digital lives. We don’t physically see them as often; we see them more in the digital space rather than a human context,” said Christian Nelissen, Senior Vice-President, Enterprise
Data and Analytics, TD Bank Group. “What that means for us is that data increasingly becomes the primary way of communicating with our customers. So, to be good at communication, we need to be great at using data. Partnerships with leading educational institutions like Western are playing a key role in developing the talent that will continue to move Canada’s financial industry forward.”

Western has seen rapid growth in the discipline recently. Its Master of Data analytics program launched in September 2017, supported by the School of Mathematical and Statistical Science and the Department of Computer Science. An undergraduate program in Data Science will begin in September 2018.

Nelissen applauded the university as a “key innovation hub in southwestern Ontario,” and cheered its focus on diversity and creating new opportunities, specifically for women, to excel in the fields of data science and analytics.

“For us at TD, our partnership with the university is about building for the future, building the talent base that gives us the ability to do things we need to do,” Nelissen said.

To address the rapidly evolving big data landscape, organizations need data analytics experts, a new generation of highly qualified personnel who are able to extract meaningful insights from raw, complex data, in a timely fashion.

Harnessing the potential of data and sculpting it into solutions that address societal challenges is the mandate of 21st-Century experts in data analytics, said Pauline Barmby, Acting Science Dean. However, there’s a talent gap in data science in this country. An estimated gap of 150,000 data and analytics professionals limits our collective ability to innovate.

“Western is leading the way in addressing the shortage,” Barmby said. “We have a strong roster of data analysis researchers and instructors along with the vision and training programs at the graduate and undergraduate level to build Canada’s pool of data analytic talent. TD Bank Group’s investment in data analytics has placed Western and, in particular, the Faculty of Science, in an excellent position to become Canada’s premier training institution in data analytics.”

That sentiment was echoed by Matt Davison, Director, School of Mathematics and Statistical Sciences, who witnesses faculty and students working together to address some of the thorniest challenges in finance, health and the environment. He believes TD Bank Group’s investment, combined with Western’s strength in data science, will yield significant results. “As a result of the TD Bank Group’s generous gift, we will grow into a data analytics powerhouse,” said Davison.

For more information, or to support the Faculty of Science, please contact Paula Luchak, Director of Development, Faculty of Science at 519.661.2111 ext. 86642 or or visit

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Impact Western
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