October 2017

Reflections on the 2017 Actuarial Teaching Conference

By Thomas Wakefield

The second biennial Actuarial Teaching Conference was held on June 26–27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), the conference is designed to enhance the connection between the SOA and the community of actuarial educators. The conference featured both general and concurrent sessions of interest to those involved in educating future actuaries. Interest in actuarial science education has grown tremendously since the first conference in 2015. The 2017 conference reached its capacity of over 100 educators who networked over dinner on Monday evening and returned on Tuesday to participate in sessions designed to familiarize us with the university initiatives of the SOA (led by SOA staff, Tiffany Tatsumi and Gena Long) and to encourage the sharing of ideas and best practices in actuarial education through a series of interesting, informative and interactive presentations.

Stuart Klugman presented an overview of the upcoming changes to the ASA curriculum and answered questions about the upcoming revisions to the exams and e-learning requirements for the designation. Barry McKeown updated the audience on the state of diversity in the actuarial profession and the work of the Joint Committee on Career Encouragement and Actuarial Diversity (JCCEAD) while Jason Leppin and James Trimble described a program pairing the Actuarial Foundation, actuaries and high schools to offer individualized math tutoring to high school students. These sessions provided educators the opportunity to learn more about these initiatives and think about ways to modify and enhance their programs to satisfy the new learning requirements of the SOA and participate in outreach to foster diversity in the actuarial profession.

Concurrent sessions offered attendees the opportunity to learn more about creating successful undergraduate programs, using blended learning in actuarial science courses, using interactive tutorials and case studies in courses, employing narrative mathematics in introductory life contingency courses, designing actuarial curricula, and discussing best teaching moments.

The conference concluded with a presentation by Andrés Villegas on data analytics in actuarial education. This was particularly relevant given the upcoming changes to the ASA curriculum that emphasize data analytics.

I certainly appreciated the opportunity to network with other actuarial science educators, share information about the profession and education of future actuaries, and learn from actuaries and other faculty about ways to enhance student success and keep our programs relevant to the profession. Particular takeaways for me included new resources available to connect faculty with each other and the SOA, and knowledge of the many benefits and resources that the SOA offers academics to promote actuarial education. The SOA continues to enhance its connection to universities through its UCAP (Universities and Colleges with Actuarial Programs) program, including an upcoming University Support Actuary mentoring program.

Barry’s presentation encouraged me to reflect on our attempts to encourage diversity in the profession and how we could develop recruiting strategies to promote diversity within our major. I attended two concurrent sessions led by Jelena Milovanovic and Diana Skrzydlo. Jelena Milovanovic’s session on creating a successful undergraduate program highlighted the success of Arizona State University in securing endowed scholarships and exclusive internships. It was interesting to hear about ASU’s success and the institutional support that made such growth possible. Diana’s discussion of innovative pedagogical techniques, including interactive tutorials, case studies, and oral exams provided me with several ideas for incorporating such active learning strategies in my own classrooms. I am using interactive task-based exercises in my calculus course and oral examinations in my linear algebra course this semester. The breaks and lunch gave me the opportunity to meet many new and old friends who share a passion for actuarial education and discuss initiatives related to actuarial science at our institutions. I left the conference with several ideas and contacts for expanding the opportunities that we provide our students through collaboration with other programs and the sharing of ideas and resources with colleagues.

I am looking forward to the 2019 Actuarial Teaching Conference and thank the members of the 2017 ATC Planning Committee for their work in organizing this beneficial event! The presentations from the 2017 conference are available online.


Thomas Wakefield, FSA, is assistant professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Youngstown State University. He can be reached at tomwakefield@gmail.com .