Future actuaries get hands-on experience through inaugural summer program

· 4 min read

Future actuaries get hands-on experience through inaugural summer program

Kimberly Smith | Business
High school students Sofia Gonzales and Yuliana Loya (front) learned about actuarial science as a profession, the skills needed to succeed and met with industry professionals at the inaugural Discover Actuarial Science.

Nearly 30 teens took their first step to finding their future careers at the inaugural Discover Actuarial Science summer high school program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Students explored the actuarial science field and how actuaries solve complex, challenging problems that impact the financial security of people and businesses.

“While actuarial science has been around for a long time, many are unaware of this field and its rewarding career opportunities, including those in insurance, hospitals, banks and more. In fact, insurance is the second largest industry in Nebraska, just behind agriculture,” said Sue Vagts, director of the Actuarial Science Program, Ameritas Actuarial Faculty Fellow, David P. Hayes Chair of Actuarial Science and associate professor of practice in actuarial science.

Rising high school juniors and seniors from eight states attended to gain insight into the field. Many students knew little about the field before the camp, though. Sofia Gonzales from Omaha talked to a professional who advised her to attend Discover Actuarial Science.

“Last year, I did a job shadow with Kristen DuPree (’07), who is an actuary. She answered many of my questions about her job, but I came to Discover Actuarial Science because I wanted to know more about the college and career prep needed to become an actuary. Going into my senior year, finding a career path and a college is really important for me. This experience is very helpful and gives me a head start,” Gonzales said.

Discover Actuarial Science
Kimberly Smith | Business
Nearly 30 teenagers from eight states participated in the inaugural Discover Actuarial Science high school program.

Word of mouth also brought Austen Ernberger, a rising senior from Thornton, Colorado, to the program after hearing about the opportunity from his school counselor. Ernberger then researched actuarial science and wanted to learn more.

“I’m really interested in numbers and math and wanted to check this out because it looked interesting. It’s been a great opportunity and really helpful. I’ve learned a lot of the skills needed to be an actuary is the stuff I’m good at, like problem-solving,” he said.

Participants like Ernberger and Gonzales split into different teams where they completed simulations, workshops and challenges. Current actuarial science majors served as their mentors and spent one-on-one time with their team answering questions about college life and getting to know each other.

“I wanted to give high school students the opportunity to learn more about something that I love,” said Jared Oney, senior actuarial science major from Aurora, Colorado. “My group has been very creative, and I’ve enjoyed pushing them, getting them to share their ideas and learning more about them. For example, Austin picks up things very fast. We had been playing an insurance simulation game about iPhone repairs earlier, and he quickly knew what we needed to do. It’s impressive they learned so much in just a couple of days.”

Beyond mentor and mentee relationships, students quickly formed friendships with other participants. Having a roommate while staying in college housing and being part of teams accelerated their connections.

Discover Actuarial Science Reception
Kimberly Smith | Business
Austen Ernberger from Thornton, Colorado, receives a certificate of completion from his mentor, a Nebraska senior Jared Oney from Aurora, Colorado, and Actuarial Science Program Director Sue Vagts at the closing reception for Discover Actuarial Science.

“I came expecting not to make any friends because I didn’t even know who was coming from where. Talking to everyone was easy. We did a lot of icebreaker type activities that definitely helped us get closer to each other, and honestly, I’m going to miss my roommate. She’s really invested in her future and involved in a lot of school-related things,” said Yuliana Loya, a rising junior from Grand Island, Nebraska.

Students also benefited from talking with interns and alumni now working for the program’s eight sponsors — Ameritas, Assurity, BlueCross BlueShield of Nebraska, Lincoln Financial Group, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Thrivent and WoodmenLife. They also toured local employers and celebrated their program completion with a reception sponsored by the Nebraska Actuaries Club.

“We were able to launch this program thanks to the tremendous support we receive from the insurance industry in Nebraska and those outside the state who recruit our students so heavily,” Vagts said. “After a great week, we are already looking forward to next year.”

Nominations and applications for the free 2024 summer high school program open later this fall.

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