October 2015

Society of Actuaries First Actuarial Teaching Conference

By Michelle Guan

The first Actuarial Teaching Conference (ATC) was held in Indianapolis, June 22-23. This new event was developed and sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) to promote quality actuarial education, share ideas across universities and support actuarial programs by providing content to help build and enhance their programs. The event attracted 75 participants from 56 colleges and universities around the United States and Canada.

The conference opened with welcoming remarks from SOA staff members on Tuesday morning, June 23, following a relaxing social evening reception the night before at the Hilton Garden Inn. The subsequent full day of conference provided eight featured sessions covering a variety of topics. The electronic versions of the ATC sessions and presentations are available on the SOA Website.

SOA staff members delivered presentations on the latest SOA initiatives and programs, as well as SOA exam insights. These sessions presented up-to-date information about SOA university programs, SOA candidate connect events, and recent or upcoming changes to exam curriculum, such as the addition of written-answer questions to Exam MLC and syllabus changes to Exams FM and MFE. An overview of the Centers of Actuarial Excellence program (CAE) was also provided through a panel of representatives from CAE schools. The panel included a detailed discussion on CAE criteria, application process, and benefits of the CAE program.

A special moderated employer panel featured actuaries from a variety of companies who provided information about the current actuarial job market and employer expectations for actuarial students. The employment of actuaries was projected to grow 26 percent by 2022. This panel provided an excellent opportunity for actuarial educators to communicate with employers in the field. A lively discussion focused on the increasing challenges for entry-level actuarial job seekers and advice for career changers.

Two pedagogical sessions were presented about incorporating computer languages in the actuarial classroom and teaching interactive actuarial classes with flipped classroom approach. These sessions were particularly beneficial to actuarial educators who hope to incorporate the new approaches into their classrooms and programs. Some other panels covered a wide range of topics, including international students, summer schools for high school students, writing intensive actuarial course, and professional and business ethic course.

The event was well received by participants, who indicated they found the information and networking opportunities valuable.

“The best part of the conference, for us, was the Social Evening before the conference. Here we met and talked to people from other Actuarial Science departments across the country. We have learned about their programs and how they grew their program to the size they are now. I, personally, appreciated very much the chance to meet the people behind the Actuarial Science departments from around the country.”
--- Marcel Carcea (Western New England University)

“The session on SOA Exam Insights was fascinating. I had never really thought deeply about the amount of effort that is involved in creating and grading exam questions. And that it is done primarily by volunteers! Best line of the conference was when a professor asked Stewart Klugman from the SOA Education Department if there was a minimum percentage score that they could tell their students which would guarantee passing an exam, the answer was: ‘Yes. 100%.’”
--- Jeff Jolley (California State University, Fullerton)

“Since I run a summer program which aims to broaden the participation of under-presented minorities in the actuary field, one of the highlights for me was the presentation by Krzysztof Ostaszewski. I actually modeled my summer program, ASAP, Actuarial Science Academy Program at West Chester University, after his. His passion for what he does is evident, and it gave me the boost I needed for when I go back to school to put the finishing touches on my summer program.”
--- Lisa Marano (West Chester University)

The conference participants also expressed their high interests in the future ATC meetings.

“Should there be any future ATC conferences, I would definitely attend.”
--- Marcel Carcea

“All in all, it was a very inspiring meeting. I learned so much, and met so many interesting people grappling with the same issues that I am. I certainly hope that this conference becomes an annual event. I left Indianapolis very proud that I was an actuary AND a teacher.”
--- Jeff Jolley

Michelle Guan, Ph.D., is assistant professor in the department of mathematics and actuarial science at Indiana University Northwest. She can be reached at guany@iun.edu.