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DePaul’s Actuarial Summer Academy Introduces Diverse Talent to Actuarial Industry

First week of the Actuarial Summer Academy
Organized by the Arditti Center for Risk Management at the Driehaus College of Business, the annual Actuarial Summer Academy exposes high school students throughout the Chicagoland area to the actuarial industry.

For most high school students, being an actuary may not appear to be their dream job, but DePaul’s Actuarial Summer Academy is hoping to change that. The fourth annual academy, organized by the Arditti Center for Risk Management at the Driehaus College of Business, is designed to get high school students engaged in the rewarding field of actuarial science through experiential learning, case challenges and visits by industry professionals.

“One of the goals of the Actuarial Summer Academy is to create visibility for the actuarial science program at DePaul,” adds Tom Edwalds, an actuary and executive director of the Arditti Center. “The industry as a whole has found it challenging to attract minorities to the profession, so our goal is also to expose minority students while they are still in high school to the opportunities available in the actuarial profession.”

Tom Edwalds, high school student in Actuarial Academy and Stefanos Orfanos.
Tom Edwalds (left) poses with a high school student who participated in the Actuarial Summer Academy, along with Stefanos Orfanos, assistant professor of mathematics at DePaul.
Over two one-week sessions, about 60 high students from high schools throughout the Chicago area take on a case study that focuses on insurance premiums, with each team tackling a specific component of the problem. At the end of the program, each team – made up of five or six students – gives a presentation on their analyses. Leading up to their presentations, students learn basic statistics and new ways to use Excel.

Thanks to funding from 11 corporate sponsors, the program is free to all students. In exchange, the sponsors have a chance to deliver a presentation to the students and designate a student team with their company name.

Edwalds says about 60 percent of the schools that send students to the academy are public and about 40 percent are Catholic. Organizers seek to enroll a diverse group of students who are good at math for admission into the program.

To get a taste of what it is like to be an undergraduate student at DePaul, the students stay in the Lincoln Park dorms, where team leaders stay with them. Maryna Bort, who earned an actuarial science degree from the Driehaus College of Business, served as team leader for the Willis Towers Watson team during the first week and the Markel team during the second week of the academy.

Bort, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine, was always skilled at math and wishes she had attended a similar program when she was younger. “I think this is a great program because aside from just learning what actuarial science is, they get a chance to learn more about Excel and about business, statistics and finance overall.”

Maryna Bort
Maryna Bort, who majored in actuarial science at the Driehaus College of Business, served as one of the academy's team leaders.

After enrolling at DePaul, Bort initially studied finance. She learned about the actuarial science major from a friend, and after doing research into the industry, she switched majors.

“Everyone was saying (the major) was hard and that people are scared of exams,” Bort says. “But that challenge was exactly what I was looking for.” In order to progress in an actuarial career, students must pass a series of exams that lead to professional certification by the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society.

As the program continues, Edwalds says he hopes it makes the industry more diverse. “This academy demonstrates DePaul’s connection to the employers in our community by being in tune with one of their needs for diverse talent in a highly technical area,” he says. “We’re showing that we can help provide that by having this program.”

The following organizations partnered with the Arditti Center to sponsor this year’s Actuarial Summer Academy:

  • Aon
  • Allstate
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois
  • CNA
  • Markel Corporation
  • Millman
  • Northwestern Mutual
  • Willis Towers Watson
  • The Society of Actuaries
  • The Casualty Actuarial Society
  • The Actuarial Foundation