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Ashland University – Actuarial Science Student Q&A: Aubrey Curtis

Aubrey Curtis, Ashland University, Actuarial Science
Aubrey Curtis, Ashland University, Actuarial Science

Aubrey Curtis is a junior at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio, where she is double majoring in actuarial science and mathematics. She is a member of the Eagles for Pride student group and a member of the Theta Phi Alpha women’s fraternity. We spoke to Aubrey in April 2021.

Tell us one thing about yourself that’s not on your resume.

I love comedy. I was on my high school’s improv team for four years, and we wrote and performed hilarious skits and scenes. Before COVID, I was hoping to start an improv team here at Ashland, and I might go through with it next semester if things go back to normal. I also love watching Netflix comedy specials.

What has your experience at Ashland University been like?

Our campus is fairly small with only around 7,000 people, and it is gorgeous in the springtime. My friends, roommate, and sorority sisters helped me create a lot of college memories before we had to leave due to COVID last year. 

I am a member of the Eagles for Pride group, and I attend the student-run church service held on Thursdays called The Well. I also work in the Registrar’s office on campus as part of my work-study program. During my second year, I joined the sorority Theta Phi Alpha, where I work as the new member educator assistant. Next semester, I’m running for the new member educator.

From an academic standpoint, I feel that the professors and staff on campus really care about each individual student, specifically how we are doing and whether we are keeping up with our studies. I love the actuarial science program. The faculty and staff associated with the program are amazing.

Actuarial science is so rewarding. It is great for students who are willing to put in hard work and dedication to take on a challenge.

What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Ashland University?

I was torn between Ashland and Heidelberg University because I wanted a reputable smaller school that was away from home but not too far. The fact that Ashland is a religion-based school was one of the deciding factors for me. On my second visit to Ashland, I met with several group leaders that I thought were outstanding and several professors from the math department. I just didn’t find that at Heidelberg.

What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?

When I came for my tour of Ashland University, there was a portion of the day that was scheduled for us to talk to the professors of our desired major. At the time, I was scheduled as a math major and paired to talk with Dr. Christopher Swanson. He had asked me why I was interested in mathematics and I explained that I loved the challenge of problem-solving and how it was like a puzzle. 

Dr. Swanson then suggested that I look into the actuarial science program. I had never even heard of actuarial science but after doing some research on it, it sounded like something that suited my interests. I signed up for the classes and came to realize that I loved it enough to add it as a second major.

Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?

Actuarial science is so rewarding. It is great for students who are willing to put in hard work and dedication to take on a challenge. In return, you are able to obtain the feeling of accomplishment. 

The multiple actuarial exams provide this reoccurring challenge since they begin during college years and continue throughout an actuary’s career. Preparing for the exams is going to be tough, but the team here at Ashland does a great job of making it seem less intimidating and making you feel more prepared for it.

What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?

We have a very small actuarial science program here, but I think that’s what I like about it. I like how I can name almost every student that is in the program with me and how we all share a similar class schedule. 

If I am struggling in one class, I know at least five other people that I can ask for help. I also know that if someone else is struggling, I can try my best to help them. The only downside is that there’s only a handful of women in the mostly male-dominated program. I wish I had more girlfriends in the department. If the college offered a Women in STEM club, I would gladly join.

What is your favorite class so far and why?

In general, Musical Style with Dr. Stefan Swanson has been my favorite class. It was all about how music has developed and changed over time and where some music gets its style. Dr. Swanson is such an awkwardly funny, enthusiastic professor who made the class fun and interesting. Even after he transferred schools, we still keep in touch.

Within my major, Calculus 3 has been my favorite. I loved how it built on and challenged the concepts of calculus. It also helped that my favorite professor, Dr. Gordon Swain, taught this class.

What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?

What is unique about the actuarial science program at Ashland is that there is no other major that has a class that specifically teaches you how to take a career exam. Our financial mathematics class is specifically designed to teach us how to take the CAS FM exam. 

Since our department is small, there is always time for a professor to help you one-on-one. When I first came here, I also tossed around the idea of being a math teacher and even took an education class. I quickly realized that even though we have a great education program, it is one of the bigger ones on campus. Along with not taking enjoyment from what I was learning, I didn’t have the resources to grow as I do in the mathematics department. I’m glad I made the switch.

What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?

The exams are the hardest part of the process. Preparing to take a career exam is stressful for anyone for the first time. I was the type of person in high school that never needed to study for a math test. If there’s one thing I could tell my past self, it is to not underestimate the power of college-level math courses. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time and energy that it would take to study for these exams. I had to grow into it.

What are your future aspirations or career plans?

I hope to pass the FM exam and continue passing exams. I wish to secure an actuarial position with one of the large insurance groups in or around Columbus, Ohio. I love the big-city feel, as well as the diversity and all the opportunities that come with it. Most actuarial jobs here are centered in and around Columbus. Of course, I am not opposed to traveling anywhere in the United States that offers me the opportunity; I love to visit and experience new places.

What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?

Do lots of research before you get to college. Have a good understanding of what the job entails. See if you can shadow a couple of actuaries and even some of the agents. Be sure that you are capable of carrying the very heavy math load that the program demands. Several have started in the actuarial science program and did a lot of the curriculum, but when it came to the major classes, they decided it wasn’t for them.

Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?

When I first started my research to find out what an actuary was, I looked it up on YouTube and the first thing to pop up was a video by Brea Fried of Etched Actuarial, which explained what an actuary was and what an actuary does. I fell down a rabbit hole watching her videos. She makes fun content that can help you with almost anything you want to know about in the actuarial field. I highly recommend checking her out.

» If you liked Aubrey’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.

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