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Five Core Values: How to Build a Successful Actuarial Student Organization

Best practices from Chi Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma at Drake University

by Brooke Katzmarek and Joe Yee Tai


The Society of Actuaries has become a sustaining partner of Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), with a shared vision to continuously support student actuarial organizations at universities and colleges. These organizations often play an important role as the first actuarial community on a student’s journey to embark on an actuarial career.

We invited Brooke Katzmarek and Joe Yee Tai, student leaders from Chi Chapter of GIS at Drake University to share their stories of running a student-driven actuarial organization, the key attributes to its successful operation and the impact on its members as well as a broader community.

If you are part of your student organization and also would like to share your best practices with other schools and students, please contact us at candidate@soa.org.


Three years ago, a group of five determined actuarial science majors re-chartered the Chi Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, the actuarial organization for students at Drake University. The organization quickly grew from an idea to a successful story. Now, more than 80 members strong, our organization has been recognized as the top student organization on Drake’s campus and has been recognized amongst the top four GIS chapters internationally.

Our organization grew quickly and along the way we encountered many challenges. However, we have also developed a set of core values that is used to strategically guide our future success. We are sharing with you those values, the importance they play in our organization, and examples of how we have implemented them. We hope this information can serve as a guide to you and other students as you create or shape your own actuarial science organizations.

Brotherhood

Biannual Gamma Iota Sigma Potluck Spring 2015 Many of our members join our organization looking to connect with other students who share the same major. Building a strong brotherhood is the key to building a foundation for an environment in which our members feel comfortable growing both personally and professionally.

To strengthen the bond between members of an actuarial organization, consider planning a number of events that are purely for fun and social purposes. Think of settings that foster conversation and promote teamwork. We all know that actuarial students tend to have a slightly competitive side when it comes to the exam progress. A little friendly competition is a great way to form relationships in a fun and relaxing setting.

Drake Gamma Intramural floor hockey team wins first place!) Each semester we hold a potluck at a local park where we can try foods from all of the different cultures represented in our organization and appreciate the diversity of our members. We also show appreciation by recognizing members who have put a lot of effort into developing our chapter in this end of semester event. Each semester we form intramural teams to represent our organization in school wide athletic competitions. Members who don’t join, often attend games to support the team. Most importantly, we end every weekly meeting with a social activity that usually involves members being split up into teams to compete in mini games such as Jeopardy or Pictionary .

Knowledge

The pursuit of a career in actuarial science is an experience that all of our members share. As our members work their way through exams and coursework, we try to provide as much support as possible.

Providing exam and scholastic support to members benefits them by exposing them to study resources that may be difficult or expensive to find elsewhere. This encourages members to stay engaged in the organization. As members utilize our resources and successfully progress through exams, they begin to stand out from other students in the major who are not involved in the organization. This creates a very positive representation of our organization’s brand.

We track the exam success and progress of our members as well as their GPA’s. These types of metrics allow us to see which efforts have been successful and where we could be providing better support. We have implemented initiatives such as a tutoring program, study manual library and study sessions. We also deliver “goodie bags” to members taking an exam during their last week of studying. Lastly, we publicly recognize any recent exam passers at each of our weekly meetings.

Leadership

Chi Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma Spring 2015 One of the main benefits that our members receive from being a part of our organization is the leadership opportunities that we provide.

Leadership is a quality that many companies look for when recruiting actuarial candidates. However, this skill is hard to learn in classes or to demonstrate through scholastic and exam success. Therefore, an actuarial club is the perfect place for students to develop their leadership skills by serving on committees, holding an executive position, or heading up a new initiative.

We are constantly looking for ways to get more members involved in leadership opportunities. We have committees that support each executive position, allowing a larger number of members to contribute to the success of our organization. We also encourage project ownership for members who are not in a formal leadership position but have an idea to improve our chapter in some way.

Professionalism

Developing members professionally is another core purpose of our organization.

There are three main aspects in which this type of organization can help develop its members professionally. First, the organization can provide opportunities for members to learn and develop their own professional skills. Secondly, it can educate members about different career options and industry issues. And lastly, the organization can provide opportunities for its members to build connections with professionals within the industry.

Our chapter accomplishes the three goals above by holding professional development sessions, bringing in industry speakers, and holding networking events. We often utilize connections that upperclassmen have made through internships and other networking opportunities to pursue these type of events. At the beginning of the semester, we survey members asking them to share any contact information for industry professionals that they have worked with in the past. We have held career fairs, impromptu speech workshops and SAS training sessions. Speakers have presented to our members on topics as varied as changes to the mortality tables and the impact of driverless cars on insurance. We hold an annual leadership conference where members have the opportunity to learn more about the industry and network with industry professionals. As a result, members are better prepared for job interviews, internships, and full-time positions.

Community Involvement

Our organization strives to provide members with meaningful volunteer opportunities in the community. We are constantly working to build and strengthen our relationships with various charitable organizations in our community.

When an organization participates in community service, it provides a benefit to both its members and the people who are being served. Companies like to see evidence of community involvement on the resumes of candidates; through this type of organization, you can help members build up this section of their resumes. Making a difference in the community around you creates name recognition for your organization and presents a positive branding image. Lastly, the people or places benefiting from your efforts will be very appreciative.

Our chapter has narrowed its focus and involvement to one or two organizations. This way, we can really see the impact of our efforts on the organization, and the people we are helping can have a chance to build a relationship with our members. We try to choose volunteer opportunities that align with our values and utilize our members’ skill sets. Each semester, we hold an on-campus event called “College is Cool” where we partner with a local organization to bring inner-city school children to our school to get them excited about the possibility of attending college and to show them the opportunities that college can provide them.


All in all, our chapter has grown so much because of these five core values, which have also greatly benefitted our members. In the future, we plan to continue to further develop and grow upon these values to adapt to the ever changing needs of the industry.


Brooke Katzmarek is a senior actuarial science major at Drake University where she is currently serving as the co-president of the Chi Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma. Brooke spent the past summer working as an actuarial intern at Travelers in St. Paul, MN and can be reached at brooke.katzmarek@drake.edu.

Joe Yee Tai is also a senior actuarial science major at Drake University where she currently is serving with Brooke as the co-chair for the Chi Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma. Joe Yee spent the past summer working as an actuarial intern at EMC Insurance in Des Moines, IA and can be reached at joeyee.tai@drake.edu.