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ND club pushes for new degree

Becky Hogan | Thursday, April 27, 2006

Students are often looking for new ways to improve the resources and programs that the University offers – and members of the Actuarial Science Club are hoping to do just that by encouraging Notre Dame to offer a degree in actuarial science.

The degree would benefit students who wish to seek careers as actuaries after college. An actuary is someone who determines financial risks that are involved in pension plans, financial portfolios and insurance plans. The proposed degree would, therefore, combine mathematics and business.

Vijen Patel, who is president and co-founder of the Actuarial Science Club, said that while Notre Dame currently offers some business classes that are relevant to an actuarial science degree, it is often difficult for many mathematics majors in the College of Science to register for other classes in the Mendoza College of Business.

“[Students] have trouble getting into business classes that they need for this major because they are in the College of Science,” he said. “We are trying to build this degree so that more courses are available for this major.”

The mathematics department’s Web site said approximately 40 percent of students who graduate with math degrees take jobs as actuaries of technical analysts for insurance and consulting companies such as Allstate Insurance Company and William M. Mercer.

“Getting a job as an actuary is one of the highest-paying jobs that [students] can get coming out of college,” Patel said.

Other colleges – like the University of Michigan, University of Iowa, Ohio State University and Drake University – offer actuarial science programs. Patel said universities that offer actuarial science majors not only have better access to courses applicable to their major, but also receive preparation for tests required for entrance into this field.

Professor Matthew Gursky, director of undergraduate studies in the mathematics department, said not having the actuarial science degree at Notre Dame does not put its students at a disadvantage.

“There is a constant interest by actuarial firms and insurance companies, such as Allstate and State Farm, to interview students and give presentations to students [seeking positions as actuaries],” Gursky said. “Given the success of students in the past, I do not think that students are at a profound disadvantage.”

The Actuarial Science Club met with Gursky as well as mathematics department chair William Dwyer to discuss the possibility of incorporating the degree at Notre Dame.

“The math department has been really cooperative in working with [the Actuarial Science Club],” Patel said.

Patel, who is a sophomore finance and mathematics double major, said he and other students will be able to pursue careers as actuaries without the specialty degree. He hopes, however, that the club’s efforts to encourage this major at Notre Dame will help other students in years to come.

“We are trying to get this major [started] for future students who come to Notre Dame,” he said.

Although a final decision has not yet been reached about whether or not the degree will be offered in Notre Dame’s math department, Gursky said creating this major may require having to change the course requirements to keep up with changing exams. Students who wish to pursue this career are required to pass a series of exams, and the formats of these exams can change from year to year.

At present, the University does not offer the classes would be necessary for this degree. The Actuarial Science Club has been working with the math department and the Mendoza College of Business to encourage them to offer these classes in the future.

In addition to their efforts to bring more actuarial science courses to Notre Dame, the club also spreads awareness about the career and supplies study manuals for tests that are required to become an actuary. The Actuarial Science Club is also working on a report, which they plan to submit to the math department to continue efforts to raise awareness of this major.