Celebrating 100 “Unforgettable” University Outreach Visits

uo 100 njit

Antonia Coffelt and Spencer Bone, SOA staff, commemorate 100th University Outreach visit to the New Jersey Institute of Technology

 

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) University Outreach program marked 100 visits in November with its event at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, N.J. The University Outreach program brings SOA staff and volunteer actuaries to universities and colleges around the world to connect students to the actuarial profession and the SOA learning about everything from exam processes and tracks to the rich diversity of actuarial practice areas.

Antonia Coffelt is the Academic Administrator for the SOA and is part of the team that works to make University Outreach visits memorable. “The University Outreach team consistently works to identify new ways to present the information in a way that is fresh and relevant, and to create a positive and engaging event experience,” she explains. “As a team, we strive to keep in mind that, even though this may be our 100th visit, the attendees should still receive the same energy level and event experience as if it was the very first one.”

The SOA University Outreach program connects students, volunteer actuaries and faculty. Students listen to and ask questions of a diverse panel of actuaries and meet other students interested in the actuarial profession. Featured actuaries, local to the college or university, share their individual experiences and offer advice. For faculty, it is an opportunity to bring resources to students and make employer and industry connections. Valuable SOA grassroots activities like University Outreach fosters relationships that inform and propel SOA initiatives such as Centers for Academic Excellence (CAE), Universities and Colleges with Actuarial Programs (UCAP) and SOA Candidate Connect for students.

The practicing actuaries that volunteer at the University Outreach events do so for a variety of reasons. Nathan Pohle, FSA, CERA, benefited from the guidance he received as a student and wanted to give back to the profession. “When I was in high school, I went to the University of Wisconsin’s Actuarial Science career night and that was a key moment in my decision to become an actuary,” he recalls. Pohle also notes these events helped him understand the many fields in actuarial science. “As with many students, the differences between the various practice areas was not entirely clear to me, nor the differences between consulting and insurance,” he explains. “Each encounter I had [with actuaries] helped me understand more about what it was really like. I really appreciated these busy professionals taking time out of their busy schedules to help me.”

Erik Thoren, CERA, FSA, MAAA, one of the professional volunteers at the NJIT event noted the audience was very different from the actuarial programs where Thoren usually speaks for his company, Ernst & Young. “AT NJIT, I felt like we were introducing students to the profession, almost selling them on what actuaries do and why they should pursue the career,” he explained. “It was refreshing and reminded me why I chose to be an actuary.”

Volunteers and SOA staff agree that the informal interaction between all parties involved is what makes these events unforgettable. “One of my favorite parts is when I hear the buzz of excited conversation, the ‘thank you for attending or coming,’ the exchange of resumes and business cards and the milling after the scheduled time of the event has passed,” Coffelt notes. “I haven’t personally been on a visit where this didn’t happen, so I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say we have had 100 unforgettable special events.”

Looking at the future, the SOA continues to adapt to changes in academic actuarial programs around the world. Ken Guthrie, Managing Director of Education for the SOA, part of the University Outreach program since the first visit, notes how the SOA is adapting to those changes. “The universities we now target are a little different,” he explains. “With the introduction of the CAE Faculty meeting and the CAE Student Summit, we no longer need to visit CAE universities as frequently and can expend resources on universities with smaller programs or successful business programs where students might pursue actuarial science as a second major. We hope this new focus will increase the numbers of candidates interested in a career as an actuary.”

If you are a student or faculty member interested in learning more about the actuarial profession and bringing a University Outreach event to your school or an actuary interested in volunteering for one of the next 100 University Outreach visits, please contact Xiaoyan Anderson, Candidate Relations Specialist for the SOA, at xanderson@soa.org.

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