An innovative new partnership between Bentley University and Liberty Mutual Insurance is giving Actuarial Science majors a chance to interact with professional actuaries and develop real-world skills that will help them launch their careers.
The partnership, part of a Bentley project aimed at preparing students for the workplace, was launched last fall with panel discussions on topics ranging from a day in the life of an actuary to an overview of predictive modeling.
It continues this semester with a practicum that fuses faculty instruction in advanced Excel modeling with experiential learning. Twenty practicum students, selected through a competitive application process, work with Associate Professor of Mathematics Nathan Carter on Tuesdays and with Liberty Mutual professionals on Fridays.
They are divided into four teams of five, each of which is given data and asked to create, price and market a potential new insurance product. They use the advanced Excel modeling techniques they learn in class to assess risk and project financial returns.
Each team is mentored by a Liberty Mutual actuary who comes to class five times during the semester. Company actuaries also give lectures. When the course is completed, the students will go to the company’s headquarters in Boston to present their work.
“The practicum connects students to professional actuaries,” says Carter. “Students learn what the field is all about and get to do real actuarial work. It’s very cool. It’s worked out great for all concerned.”
Practicum student Maria Chua ’16 of Edison, New Jersey, agrees.
“We’re learning advanced computer skills and getting hands-on industry experience,” she says. “I enjoy working with professionals in the field, and I love using the Excel ‘solver’ tool to organize and analyze messy data and help us meet our objectives. We’re doing real actuarial work.”
Fellow practicum student Jeremy Bar ’15 of Fairlawn, New Jersey, had always been nimble with numbers but had never even heard of an actuary, let alone considered becoming one, until Bentley introduced him to field. “Now I love actuarial science,” he says, “especially the work we’re doing in the practicum.”
The partnership arose from discussions between Bentley and Liberty Mutual executives. Two Bentley alumni — Senior Managing Actuary Peter D’Orsi ’03 and Assistant Actuary Nicole Erhartic ’08 — helped plan and launch the program.
“Bentley is an ideal school to develop skilled actuaries,” says D’Orsi. “It’s a broadly based business university that produces well-rounded graduates with skills in math, finance and other areas. We created the partnership to support Bentley’s new Actuarial Science major.
“It’s working out great. Going into the practicum we thought the mentors would have to coach students along. It’s turned out to be the opposite. The students are raring to go. Sometimes we have to rein them in.”
Erhartic, who helped develop the practicum content, says, “Liberty Mutual has always looked to Bentley for talent. The practicum gives us an opportunity to work with talented students and help them develop stronger actuarial and business skills. More generally, we see the program as contributing to the overall actuarial community.
“We’ve enjoyed the partnership. The students have already come up with a lot of interesting ideas, and we’ve gotten positive feedback from all of the actuarial professionals involved. While the format might continue to evolve, we’d like to see it continue in some form.”
Susan Brennan, Bentley’s executive director of corporate relations and career services, says, “Given the high cost of a college education, we have an obligation to provide an education that prepares graduates for the workplace.
“Augmenting a well-rounded academic curriculum with opportunities to acquire real-world skills can help us achieve this goal, and that’s why our partnership with Liberty Mutual is so important. We greatly appreciate the support they are providing.”