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Meet the Winners of the 2020 CAS University Award

McMaster University, Middle Tennessee State University, Temple University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are the 2020 recipients of the CAS University Award. The program recognizes innovative and exemplary ways that universities are preparing students for careers in the property-casualty insurance industry. Each school will receive a $5,000 award to further enhance their own programs. They were recognized during the 2020 CAS Annual Meeting that was held virtually.

The CAS University Award is an honor created to celebrate universities that share the CAS’s commitment to fostering the development of the next generation of P&C actuaries. The selection process is extremely competitive, with nearly 40 schools worldwide seeking recognition. Winners of the 2020 CAS University Award Program were determined by a panel of judges from companies across the P&C insurance industry.

“Applicant schools are sharing new approaches in how they incorporate P&C concepts into their curriculum, research and industry engagement. Those innovations are at the center of our evaluation process,” said Anson Lo, FCAS, chair of the CAS University Award Program. “As schools continue to adapt and enhance their programs to prepare their students for actuarial careers, the property and casualty insurance industry will likewise be better positioned to meet the challenges of the future,” he said. “It was impressive to see several diversity and inclusion initiatives that schools have developed within their actuarial programs. I applaud this year’s winners, as well as the many other strong applicants, for their continued efforts to promote property and casualty education.”

Meet the University Award Program Winners

McMaster University

McMaster University’s Actuarial & Financial Mathematics (AFM) program is led by Dr. Anas Abdallah, a 2016 recipient of the CAS Hachemeister Prize, which recognizes the impact of research on the P&C actuarial industry in North America. Made up of five faculty members and 165 students, the AFM impressed the judges with its focus on P&C insurance across curriculum, research and industry engagement.

Some of the university program’s highlights include the following:

  • The university has recently updated the curriculum to include two new P&C courses and a data science course. The university’s formal co-op program enables students to complete three or four work terms, each lasting four months. This allows them to gain relevant professional skills and experience before graduation.
  • Through its industry partnership with the Co-operators General Insurance Company, the university has produced P&C research on topics including reserving, ratemaking and flood modeling. Much of the university’s research output has been published in top actuarial journals.
  • The AFM program is strongly connected to the P&C industry, especially through the McMaster/Co-operators Problem-Solving Workshop. In the workshop students can develop their interpersonal and technical skills as well as participate in experiential learning using real-world P&C problems. Students can also enjoy such perks as invitations to present their results at the industrial partner’s headquarters or a full-day job shadowing or both.
Students involved with Canada’s McMaster University Actuarial & Financial Mathematics program in Hamilton, Ontario.

“We are honored and humbled,” said Dr. Abdallah about receiving the award. “We have been working tirelessly lately to enhance the P&C component and build a program at McMaster University that responds to the evolving needs of the industry and facilitates the transition into the workforce. I am happy to see that these efforts have been recognized by the world’s only actuarial organization focused exclusively on P&C risks,” he said.

Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University’s actuarial science program has five full-time actuarial faculty members, five full-time statistics faculty members and about 120 actuarial students housed in the department of mathematical sciences. The university impressed the judges with its focus on P&C topics, as shown in the following examples:

  • The undergraduate and graduate curriculum exposes a wide variety of P&C topics covered for VEEs and CAS-specific exams including MAS-I, MAS-II and Exam-5. In addition, it incorporates modern data science techniques that can support broader applications in P&C insurance. Highlights include a P&C ratemaking and loss reserving course, a data project-focused predictive analytics course, and a course on computational statistics.
  • The program has close connections to the P&C industry and active engagements with the CAS through multiple channels including participating in the University Liaison, Academic Central and Student Central programs and CAS committee services, and hosting the Casualty Actuaries of Southeast (CASE) regional conference. In addition, the program has a highly influential advisory board in the P&C field that supports and provides students with internships, entry-level positions and project resources for research topics and student theses that contribute to actuarial conference presentations and publications.
  • The program provides students with broad training opportunities in communications, business and data skills with possible minors or certificates in data science, and minors in risk management & insurance. In addition, all actuarial faculty members are active in research and heavily involved in the Computational Science Ph.D. Program.
Jubilant actuarial science program students celebrate graduation from Middle Tennessee State University in Nashville.

“We are thrilled to receive such wonderful news, especially during this special and challenging time,” said Professor Don Hong, director of the actuarial science program. “We are honored to receive such a prestigious award and would like to thank the CAS for recognizing the dedication and accomplishments of our faculty, students, distinguished alumni, the university liaisons and industrial partners of our program. Middle Tennessee State University has been fortunate to partner with the CAS and Casualty Actuaries of the Southeast (CASE) to educate and train students on property and casualty actuarial topics and skills. The award will inspire us to keep improving our program to fulfill our mission of providing a world-class actuarial education to our students.”

Temple University

With five actuarial faculty members and 250 actuarial students in its actuarial science program, Temple University impressed the judges with its focus on P&C-insurance across curriculum, research and industry engagement.

Highlights include:

  • For its undergraduate and master’s actuarial science program curricula, Temple has incorporated P&C topics that cover material on MAS-I, MAS-II and CAS Exam 5. The university leverages CAS case studies and P&C datasets for its courses. Particularly innovative is the Actuarial Practice–Property Liability, a course featuring an insurance game/market simulation that helps students understand P&C insurer operations and the impact of the operational decisions.
  • Temple University’s faculty is very active in research. Its professors produce relevant and impactful research in the P&C area that is often cited by well-known media outlets and published in academic journals. One recent research project led to the development of an insurance product. The university also encourages students to do research and publish articles with department faculty.

    Krupa S. Viswanathan, FSA, Is an associate professor in Temple University’s Risk, Insurance, and Healthcare Management Department and is director of the university’s actuarial science program.
  • The program connects with the P&C insurance industry through several avenues, such as offering a lecturer and workshop series, engaging with recruiting companies and participating in case competitions. The university has hosted a variety of industry speakers through its Snider Distinguished Guest Lecturer Series and the Actuarial Science Career Development Committee, which has brought in actuarial-focused speakers nearly every week.
  • Temple has a robust alumni mentorship program that pairs interested students each semester with an industry mentor, many of whom are from the P&C industry. The mentors offer a deep understanding of their industries and specific lines of work as well as invaluable advice.
  • The department has hosted an Enterprise Risk Management Conference since 2018 that is open to students. It features risk officers from various industries discussing challenges organizations face including cybersecurity, supply chain and climate change.

“Thank you to the Casualty Actuarial Society for selecting Temple University as one of the recipients of the 2020 CAS University Award. We are thrilled to receive this honor! The faculty strive to create and continually refine an intellectually demanding curriculum for our students. Our student engagement in professional development opportunities further expands their knowledge. The property and casualty field encompasses both traditional and innovative insurance and risk management concepts, making for interesting discussions and thought-provoking applications in the classroom. We appreciate the CAS’s recognition of our program.”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s actuarial science program has five actuarial faculty members and 375 actuarial students. According to award rules, as a winner of the CAS University Award in 2016, the school had to wait three years before applying for the award again. During those three years, the university continued enhancing its focus on P&C across its curriculum, research and industry engagement, and reemerged in 2020 as a second-time award winner.

Program highlights include the following:

  • The actuarial program substantially covers CAS Exams, supports P&C practice and incorporates innovative course content. Courses offered prepare students for attaining CAS Associateship, covering topics across Exams MAS-I, MAS-II and Exam 5. Prep courses for CAS Fellowship Exams are also available and cover subjects on Exams 7 and 9.
  • Notable courses include Extreme Value Theory and Catastrophe Modeling, which teaches practical statistical models for rare and catastrophic events, and Property and Liability Insurance, which covers underwriting, claims, ratemaking and administration. A new course, Predictive Analytics, centers around four case-study assessments in which students solve business problems combining theory and R coding, and present their results. Topics include auto insurance pricing, IBNR claims reserving, mortality modeling and stock return prediction.
  • The IRisk Lab (Illinois Risk Lab), established in 2018, fosters the integration of discovery-based learning experience with state-of-the-art academic and practical research in the areas of risk analysis and advanced analytics. The lab consists of four pillars that incorporate real-world P&C content: research projects, seminars and workshops, Hack Night and the Risk Analytics Symposium.
  • Faculty and students have many opportunities to work on P&C research. Recently, faculty members have focused on cyberrisk and peer-to-peer risk sharing, two cutting-edge P&C actuarial research areas expected to generate fundamental and impactful contributions to the P&C insurance industry.
  • In addition to the exceptional research opportunities offered to actuarial students through the IRisk Lab, there are other exciting opportunities for students to conduct research, including research internships at State Farm and the AXIS Student Challenge. The latter offers students the chance to compete to provide the best solution to a real-world business problem that AXIS Capital proposes each year.
  • The program has strong connections to the P&C industry through its Actuarial Science Advisory Board, scholarship support, actuarial science club activities, company presentations and on-site company visits. Additionally, the program maintains a close relationship with the CAS through participation in the University Liaison and CAS Student Ambassador Programs.
Participants in the IRisk Lab (Illinois Risk Lab) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign learn about real-world actuarial problems through workshops, projects and lectures.

“To have our actuarial science program recognized for a second time by the CAS is sincerely an honor,” said Dr. Runhuan Feng, FSA, CERA, associate professor and director of actuarial science at the university. “We believe in the power of innovation to serve and impact society and change lives … Not only do our students develop professional knowledge, they are already making an impact on the profession by providing creative solutions to lots of real business research problems brought to the IRisk Lab by our corporate partners … We appreciate the support the CAS has given us through the years and look forward to the continued innovation and impact that will come with our ongoing partnership.”