Math, econ merge in new Actuary Science minor

Ariana Dundon, left, Camelia Bejan
Ariana Dundon, left, Camelia Bejan. Marc Studer photos

University of Washington Bothell students who graduate with the new minor in Actuary Science will be prepared to take the first credential exams they’ll need to become certified actuaries.

That’s the beginning of a profession that uses statistics to assess risks for insurance companies or manage risks in other businesses. Hosted by two schools — Business as well as Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) — the minor brings together skills from both disciplines.

“This has been a perfect collaboration, just a perfect mesh,” said Ariana Dundon, a lecturer in the School of STEM’s Division of Engineering & Mathematics and a self-described instigator of the minor along with Camelia Bejan, an associate professor in the School of Business.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration

“I really find probability fascinating,” said Dundon, who had taught the subject mainly for engineers and then started talking with Bejan about business applications.

Dundon and Bejan recognized they could design an actuary minor by adding three new courses to existing offerings: Probability, Financial Mathematics and Financial Economics, all of which can be taught by current faculty. The minor was officially approved in May.

Students already majoring in Mathematics or Business can add the credits for the minor in a quarter or two and graduate with the recognition of those skills on their transcripts.

“The Actuary Science minor shows you have a strong mathematical background and a strong analytical ability in addition to understanding real-world mathematics,” Dundon said.

Career-ready graduates

In talking with recruiters, Dundon found local insurance companies are ready to hire candidates who pass the initial certificate exams administered by the professional actuarial organization, the Society of Actuaries. The minor is specifically designed to prepare students for the first three exams.

“We’d like the Actuary Science minor from UW Bothell to mean something to people in the area,” Dundon said. “It gives students something they can really use.”

The number of actuary jobs is growing, with evidence that actuaries will be in demand in coming years, Bejan said. They are needed in the private and government sectors to assess a variety of risks: accidents, health, financial or natural disasters and even the impact of climate change. The minor also could be valuable to students majoring in Computer Science, Engineering or Biology.

“An expertise in risk assessment, its measurement and mitigation is useful in almost any career, and this is what the minor in Actuary Science offers our students,” Bejan said. “A computer science student interested in cybersecurity issues would benefit from it as much as one interested in biomedical science.”

The UW doesn’t currently have an actuarial program at any other campus. Eventually, Dundon and Bejan said, they would like to see the minor develop into a major degree that would draw new students to campus from across the region.

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