Program Report: Undergraduate Program in Actuarial Science

by Vicki Zhang

image of notebook with writing on it
Following the major modification governance process in the 2017-18 academic year, we welcome the first cohort of actuarial science students under the new program requirements in the 2018-19 academic year.

We redesigned the actuarial science undergraduate programs in response to several new demands, including: the change in the insurance industry and the actuarial profession towards a more data-driven approach; the change in insurance market towards a more diverse landscape (long term and short term insurance); and the change in professional curriculum set by credentialing organizations SOA and CAS.

The new actuarial science specialist and major programs reflect a significant structural change from the previous ones. Especially for the Specialist program, the new curriculum includes crucial courses in statistical learning and data science. It also allows students to develop their own “concentration” or pathways to complete the program – Life & annuity/long term insurance, P&C/short-term insurance, finance/investment, pension, etc. Both for theoretical courses and practice-oriented courses, the program creates space in students’ completion pathways – and provides flexibility for future curriculum or course changes due to a new mandatory and elective structure.

With the new academic curriculum in place, our next step is to develop a professional experience component as part of ou program. There is a very strong – if not urgent – need for professional experience (PE) in our actuarial undergraduate program. Our program has long been seen as academically rigorous and our students are well-prepared to join the entry-level job market. However, they are also facing fierce competition from graduates of other university programs, especially those with a built-in co-op component. A large proportion of our students is international, which compounds the challenge of professional experiential learning. There are visa restrictions that prevent international students to take on meaningful internship and professional opportunities during their study. A PE program, that is mandatory and embedded in our program of study, will help them acquire those professional opportunities.
We had numerous consultations with the Dean’s office and the new Experiential Learning office at the Faculty of Arts & Science, as well as employers and students. I have developed a formal proposal to add a mandatory Professional Experience (PE) component to the actuarial specialist program. This mandatory requirement will be comprised of a PE course and a practicum component. The PE course will include an invited speaker series, a professional skill workshop series, industry and alumni networking events, and various assignments and presentations. The practicum component can be fulfilled in one of three ways: a semester-long internship; an extra fourth-year practicum course (on top of the practicum course a student may have already taken to fulfill the current program requirements); or a research project subject to approval of faculty advisor. We will submit this proposal for the 2019-2020 governance cycle and if all goes well, the PE requirement will be in effect starting fall 2020. We look forward to the inaugural offering of the PE course and getting constructive feedback from our students and industry partners.
Finally, there is exciting news to be shared: our program was selected by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) to be a recipient of the 2019 CAS University Award. This is a prestigious and competitive award that is only given to three or four universities worldwide annually. The CAS committee noted the “exemplary and innovative ways in which the program prepares students for a career in the property and casualty insurance industry, and the “impressive opportunities for students to gain exposure to the industry through curriculum, research, and industry engagement”. We are thrilled to be honoured!