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Meet the 2021 CAS University Award Winners

The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) selected four universities to receive the 2021 CAS University Award, an honor created to celebrate universities that share our commitment to fostering the development of the next generation of property and casualty actuaries.

As announced in June, the schools honored in the program’s sixth year are Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, Georgia State University and University of New South Wales.

The selection process is extremely competitive, with 40 schools worldwide having sought recognition through this program. Winners of the 2021 CAS University Award Program were determined by a panel of judges from companies across the property-casualty insurance industry.

The four winning schools will each receive a $5,000 monetary award to further enhance their programs and will be recognized at the 2021 CAS Annual Meeting, taking place November 7-10.

Meet the 2021 CAS University Award Winners and learn about the innovative ways they are exposing their students to the property-casualty insurance industry!

Arizona State University

With this year’s honor, Arizona State University’s (ASU) actuarial science program becomes a two-time winner of the CAS University Award. Since its first win in 2018, the school has continued its focus on property-casualty across its curriculum, research and industry engagement.

Five actuarial faculty members and 120 actuarial students make up the school’s actuarial science program. Program highlights include:

  • Launched in 2018, ACT Lab is an actuarial science consulting lab providing an organized approach to university-industry collaboration on applied real-life projects. ACT Lab takes on projects that require technical expertise and methods and that utilize undergraduate and master’s students, who are supervised by actuarial program faculty, to complete these projects. Projects to date range from traditional and stochastic approaches to pricing and reserving methods to simulating profit-sharing models. ACT Lab not only provides meaningful research experiences for students, but it helps industry partners adopt new methods and approaches, recruit talent, deal with staff augmentation and uneven workflow, and outsource development projects that are not mission critical. Faculty sponsors of ACT Lab see it as an opportunity to understand the issues faced by the industry and a way to become better acquainted with the current literature.
  • ASU’s core actuarial science curriculum addresses property-casualty topics through 17 different courses that feature real-life applications and guest speakers from local P&C companies. ASU’s course on ratemaking and reserving is 100% P&C content and is based on the CAS Exam 5 syllabus. The CAS’s MAS I and II exam materials are covered across a few different ASU courses. Taught by a retired CAS Fellow, ASU’s business communications course sharpens students’ public speaking and presentation skills. Upper-division and master’s courses apply course topics to real-life data; all master’s students are required to take an applied project course that involves P&C, health and pensions.
  • Because of its close connections with local companies and the broader actuarial science community, ASU’s Actuarial Advisory Board attracts a large and active group of participants — 28 members representing the major actuarial employers in the area. This advisory board supports ACT Lab and generates a substantial volume of support for internships, scholarships, guest speakers, student events and more. Over the last three years, ASU has also hosted the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association Student Symposium both in-person and virtually, which has introduced the P&C insurance field to students from universities nationwide.
Students in ASU's Actuarial Science Program
Students in ASU’s Actuarial Science Program

From its beginnings six years ago, the ASU actuarial science program has stayed true to its mission of graduating highly desired, current and relevant future leaders for the industry. “Faculty and students are beyond excited to have their efforts validated with this year’s CAS University Award,” said Dr. Jelena Milovanovic, ACIA, AIAA, a professor of practice at Arizona State University. “[We] will continue to be inspired by the profession’s evolution in today’s environment as well as to contribute to future innovations in the profession.”

Brigham Young UniversityBrigham Young University

Brigham Young University’s actuarial science program of four actuarial faculty members and 150 actuarial students impressed the judges with its focus on property-casualty insurance across curriculum, research and industry engagement.

Program highlights include the following:

  • The judges found BYU’s innovative research projects highly outstanding. A major focus for BYU’s program is mentored research, particularly for undergraduate students, and nearly all their projects involve students. Highlights include:
  • BYU has run an auto loss trends project since 2017 that is jointly sponsored by the CAS, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Society of Actuaries. Twenty-five students have been involved in the three iterations of the project so far, and the findings have been presented at the CAS Annual Meetings two years in a row.
  • A faculty member and undergraduate student are currently working on a machine learning project in personal auto, building models that analyze a personal auto database acquired from the CAS. In the future, the code and summaries of the data will be published so practitioners and academics can use the data and build new models.
  • BYU’s program has a strong focus on statistics and predictive analytics. In addition to covering actuarial-specific topics like ratemaking and reserving, students are trained to have exceptional modeling skills to prepare them for the future of the actuarial profession. Undergraduate-level courses are offered on Bayesian modeling, regression, spatial modeling and time series, along with a course on core statistical concepts. All the topics on MAS-I and MAS-II are covered within the curriculum along with many of CAS’s Exam 5 topics.
  • The program has strong connections to the P&C industry, with Associate Professor of Statistics and Actuarial Program Coordinator Brian Hartman having worked for The Hartford and Liberty Mutual. The program boasts four P&C actuaries on its advisory board and has had several P&C employers travel to Utah for campus information sessions.

“To receive such a distinguished recognition and be included among a distinctive set of actuarial programs is a humbling honor,” said BYU Academic Vice President C. Shane Reese. “We anticipate that this recognition will increase opportunities for our students, who are so well prepared for the actuarial profession. We are grateful for the excellence of our faculty, the strength of our students and the partnership with CAS.”

Brigham Young University actuarial faculty include (left to right) Scott Grimshaw, department chair; Allie Tomlinson, assistant actuarial program coordinator; Dennis Tolley, faculty; Robert Richardson, faculty; Brian Hartman, actuarial program coordinator; and Mark Brown, actuarial advisory board chair.
Brigham Young University actuarial faculty include (left to right) Scott
Grimshaw, department chair; Allie Tomlinson, assistant actuarial program coordinator; Dennis Tolley, faculty; Robert Richardson, faculty;
Brian Hartman, actuarial program coordinator; and Mark Brown, actuarial advisory board chair.

Georgia State University

Georgia State University’s (GSU) actuarial science program was established in 1958 and has seven actuarial faculty members and 133 actuarial students. The university particularly impressed the judges with its curriculum and teaching methods that leverage a variety of innovative techniques. These include real-world case studies and presentations on topics like ASOPs as well as practical applications using public data sets that take advantage of R, Python, Excel and other tools.

Program highlights include:

  • GSU’s actuarial science program prepares students for CAS Exams MAS I and MAS II and CAS Exam 5. Actuarial science students are required to take these courses as part of a sequence on P&C actuarial mathematics. The program supports students pursuing their property-casualty credentials, reimbursing students for CAS exams through Exam 6.
  • The program’s regression modeling course covers regression, time series and generalized linear models with applications in R. Projects are assigned that use P&C data to perform various statistical tests and fit predictive models using datasets including Singapore automobile claims and Massachusetts bodily injury data.
  • The program’s ratemaking and loss reserving course focuses on CAS Exam 5 materials and uses as assigned textbooks Werner & Modlin’s Basic Ratemaking and Friedland’s Estimating Unpaid Claims Using Basic Techniques. The course incorporates projects that relate the theory to the practice of P&C insurance. For example, students are asked to design rating manuals in Excel/VBA or R that use data in Chapter 2 of Werner-Modlin or to implement the work of Appendix A-D, depending on their interest in personal auto, homeowner’s, medical malpractice or workers’ compensation.
  • GSU also offers innovative risk management and insurance (RMI) courses as actuarial science major electives. Their insurtech course uses real-world data to teach, focusing on applying technology (machine learning and blockchain) to insurance. Examples of successful P&C applications are studied, from startups providing specialized solutions at specific points of a P&C insurer’s value chain to full-stack insurtechs.

RMI Chair Stephen Shore and Director of Undergraduate AS Program Stefanos Orfanos expressed deep gratitude for receiving the CAS University Award. “It is a tribute to our efforts to train actuarial students in property-casualty insurance and equip them with the skills they need to be successful in their careers,” they said. The award will enable GSU to support travel to CAS meetings and to reward students for passing CAS exams. “We also place great emphasis on research that covers the full spectrum of actuarial practice and on working together with our industry partners to benefit our diverse student population and the profession,” they said.

GSU’s “Unlocking Your Inner Actuary” campaign.

University of New South Wales

The University of New South Wales’s (UNSW) actuarial science program has 16 actuarial faculty members and 1,159 actuarial students. Like the other award winners, the university focus on P&C insurance across curriculum, research and industry engagement made a strong impact on the judges. Program highlights include the following:

  • Innovative degree programs combining actuarial science, data analytics and computer science, including artificial intelligence, were developed in response to student and market demand, but especially from the P&C industry that wants actuaries with more training in data science and computer science. UNSW’s actuarial courses provide a theoretical framework and practical application of important topics in property-casualty industries.
  • UNSW’s actuarial data analytic applications course includes state-of-the-art statistical, machine-learning techniques and practical case studies. A group assignment and discussion questions, created via an Agile Story Wall, relate to solving business problems, one of which includes an auto-insurance pricing assignment concerning the claim management process in the context of COVID-19.
  • UNSW requires a data visualization and communication course that introduces statistical and visualization tools for the exploratory analysis of data. The course helps students with essential skills for any analyst by building their abilities to present visual access to the huge amount of data that business creates.
  • For the last five years, the actuarial program has engaged in the UNSW Digital Uplift/Inspired Learning Initiative, which has led to substantial development of digital learning expertise within the school and students. Further accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the teaching is digital-enabled and revolves around flipped and blended delivery pedagogy, and formative assessments using the Story Wall approach.
  • UNSW’s Co-op program has been operating since 1995 and is the first such university program in Australia of its kind. It is sponsored by major P&C companies in Sydney and combines university study with practical on-site employment. It employs a professor of practice to enhance links between the university and industry thinking.
  • Among UNSW’s numerous P&C research projects, the Australian Research Council Linkage project (2013-2020) has resulted in more than 20 papers in top-rated journals.
  • Innovative programs such as Girls in Business Digital Camp exposes female students to careers in banking and finance, information systems and actuarial studies. Launched in 2020, the Women in Business Ambassador Program contributes to gender diversity and increases female participation in actuarial studies and information systems at the UNSW Business School.

“To prepare our students for a career in the P&C insurance industry, we have continually innovated both curriculum and teaching pedagogy,” said UNSW Associate Professor Dr. Jae Kyung (JK) Woo. “Our innovations have been facilitated and informed by our close collaboration with P&C industry partners and professional associations. We will continue to work on enhancing our program and contributing to the further development of actuarial science and the actuarial profession,” he said.

Faculty in UNSW’s actuarial science program.