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by Lou Rossi, Director of Undergraduate Studies
A strong and vital undergraduate mathematics
program is the foundation of any successful university. Over the last
five years, our Department has seen a substantial growth in the number
of math majors from 190 to over 270 this spring with almost the same
number of mathematics minors. What many do not realize is that there is
no such thing as a typical math major. With six undergraduate
programs, Mathematical Sciences (BA and BS), Secondary Mathematics
Education (BA and BS), Quantitative Biology, and Mathematics and
Economics our offerings are as diverse as our students’ interests. As
the Director of Undergraduate Studies, I spend a lot of time focusing on
three questions: Where do our math majors come from? What do they do
while they are at UD? Where do they go when they graduate? The answers
to these questions help drive the evolution of our programs. Most
recently, student and faculty interest across the University led us to
create a new program in Actuarial Sciences.
The new program is the latest
interdisciplinary collaboration between Mathematics faculty and
colleagues in other departments. For this degree program, mathematics
is taking the lead role with active participation from the Departments
of Economics, Management Information Sciences, Applied Economics and
Statistics, and Finance. For the uninitiated, the creation of a new
program requires a lot of conversations, bridge-building and of course
paperwork. Approval by the Department, the College and University
educational activity committees and eventually the Provost requires a
full academic year of meetings and deliberations. Having run this
gauntlet during the fall and spring, we expect students will be allowed
to major in Actuarial Sciences beginning in the Fall of 2013.
Actuaries are the professionals that study
risk quantitatively and help companies manage it. While this program
will be our newest offering, in the past many of our alumni have chosen
the actuarial career track using our other degree programs as a
springboard. Many work for insurance companies which rely heavily upon
them, but actuaries also work for banks, private corporations and even
the government. As alumni Matt Surles wrote to me recently, “One
thing I find pretty interesting is how relevant my work is to what is
taking place in the current day to day world. It is quite often that I
read about something in the newspaper related to health care reform and
then go to the office and have a project on the same topic.“ Not only
are they are essential to the economic stability of nations, but they
are highly sought and compensated in the private sector. Even in the
midst of the Great Recession, a 2010 Georgetown University study found
the unemployment rate of actuaries to be 0%, and that’s one statistic
every math major should know well. Certified actuaries advance along
their career ladder through a battery of exams administered by the
Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society.
Math majors interested in this career path
have typically chosen our Mathematics and Economics program and done
well moving into the actuarial profession. Designed for students
interested in graduate study in economics or the actuarial sciences,
this particular degree program has grown from 40 students to just under
100 in the last five years. Based on student interest, the faculty felt
it was time to create an identifiable program for those interested in
actuarial work. The new program is very similar to Mathematical and
Economics, but includes more coursework finance, statistics and
information systems, and slightly fewer required coursework in
economics. The first two actuarial exams are Exam P (probability) and
Exam FM (financial mathematics), and we expect our students to pass them
during their sophomore or junior years. In the springtime, students
already create informal study groups to prepare for these exams, and
many students in our program have already passed them. The new program
should provide more focused mentoring advising on exams and coursework.
Also, several required courses have been accepted by the SOA to meet
their Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements.
As soon as the program ‘goes live’ next
fall, we expect to have 10-15 students per year declare this major.
While we anticipate some students may shift from Mathematics and
Economics into the new program, the two serve different purposes and
both will continue to attract large numbers of majors. During many of
the internal discussions leading to the creation of this program, some
have wondered whether seven different undergraduate degree programs is
too many. I take the opposite view. With over 100 employers seeking
mathematics majors through the UD Blue Hen Jobs portal, I wonder if we
are providing enough options for undergraduates who are interested in
mathematics. Where there is student and faculty interest, we will
continue to look for ways to improve our undergraduate offerings and
expand into exciting new areas of opportunity.
For more information about the degree requirements for the ACSC-BS degree click here.
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