October 2016

DePaul University Launches Summer Program for High School Students

By Tom Edwalds

This past July, DePaul University conducted a new program for high school students called the Actuarial Summer Academy. Fifteen high schools in the local Chicago area were invited to select two mathematically talented students plus one alternate to participate in the program, which was offered free of charge to participants. Schools were selected to include both catholic and public schools from the city of Chicago and nearby suburbs. The target was students between their sophomore and junior years, but schools were permitted to select students between their junior and senior years at their discretion.

The program was not limited to minority students, but most of the invited schools were known to have significant minority populations. The net result was a class that was 55 percent Hispanic and 7 percent African American, with about 60 percent boys and 40 percent girls.

Students arrived on Sunday, July 24, and stayed in the dorms until Wednesday, July 27. Students worked together in teams of six, and each team had a graduate student mentor who stayed with them in the dorms and attended all classes and meals with them. Classroom instruction included using Excel for data manipulation and analysis including bootstrapping and Monte Carlo simulation. Each team was assigned a project using these techniques on different data.

The ability to offer the program free of charge to participants was made possible by five sponsors: Allstate, Aon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, CNA, and The Actuarial Foundation. Each sponsor funded a team of students and their mentor, and each sponsor sent a representative to speak to the students about career opportunities in the actuarial profession.

Students presented the results of their projects on the last day of the Actuarial Summer Academy, and were asked to complete a survey about the program during the closing ceremony while participation certificates were handed out. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, with all students agreeing that they had learned something new in the program and agreeing that they had a better understanding of the actuarial profession as a result of the program.

We are very pleased at the successful launch of this program and we are already looking for ways to improve it for next year!

Tom Edwalds, FSA, ACAS, MAAA, is a clinical professor of finance at Depaul University in Chicago, Ill. He can be reached at tedwalds@gmail.com.