Around 2002, a committee consisting of Gabor Franciscs, Shlomo Levental, Wellington Ow and James Stapleton was formed to evaluate the opportunity to offer an actuarial program to students pursuing degree programs in Mathematics, Statistics, Finance and Economics. Mark Schroder of the Department of Finance in the business school also participated in the discussions. This was a period when resources were scarce at the university so offering such an option to students had to be designed only with then-existing resources such as faculty teaching and staff administration.
It was decided that the best path was to offer the actuarial program as a specialization to students within the College of Natural Science pursuing bachelor’s degree programs with a strong quantitative curriculum. The specialization began with a few selected courses to help students prepare for the first two actuarial exams: Exam P/1 (Probability) and Exam FM/2 (Financial Mathematics).
However, as word circulated within the MSU community of this new option, the Actuarial Science (AS) specialization began to attract outstanding students who eventually were able to pass these two exams and secure summer internships and post-graduation employment. This success led the committee to re-evaluate the program to make it more robust and responsive to the demand and changing nature of the actuarial profession.
For example, the committee formed an Actuarial Science Advisory Board consisting primarily of practicing actuaries to assist in improving such a youthful program. The foundation for student interaction with faculty and industry was laid by the formation of the MSU Actuarial Student Club initiated by two students, Ari Kuniarwan and Nathan Crum. Additionally, the committee saw the need to evaluate course offerings within the university to meet the SOA Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements.
In 2010, Albert Cohen was hired as acting director to lead the program into the next phase of its existence. Cohen was very instrumental in helping to develop the BS major in Actuarial Science degree program and the rigorous academic curriculum needed to establish MSU as a national leader in actuarial education. Under the vision and stewardship of department chairs Yang Wang (Mathematics) and Hira Koul (Statistics and Probability) and the deep, enthusiastic support of the Dean of the College of Natural Science, Jim Kirkpatrick, we were able to capitalize on the tremendous success of the Specialization and offer the Bachelor’s Degree in Actuarial Science, beginning in 2011. To celebrate this achievement with the MSU community, and to honor our donors, Ron and Mary Simon, committed to the Lansing insurance industry, the first Ron and Mary Simon Lecture in Actuarial Science was held in Spring 2012. The speaker was Professor Emiliano A. Valdez, who has in fall 2013 joined us as the new program director to lead us into the next phase.
With the first cohort of students graduating in 2013, our future is brighter than it has ever been. Today, the program is offered jointly by the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Statistics and Probability and is seeing an even more rapid growth with over 200 students now enrolled with AS as a major or specialization.
We look forward to you joining us in the next chapter of our history!