Amy Fatora is a senior at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She’s majoring in statistical and actuarial mathematics with minors in computer science and business administration. Amy is part of Saint Mary’s 4+1 Data Science program, which will allow her to complete a one-year Master’s in Data Science after she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in 2021. This summer, Amy will be interning at Milliman, where she will be focusing on casualty insurance. We spoke with Amy in May 2020.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I love music. I love both listening to music and creating it. Last year, I learned how to play the harp, and someday I would like to learn how to play the bagpipes. I live near Chicago, and there is a very large Irish presence here, so I’ve always grown up watching bagpipes go by when there are parades. It’s a really unique and interesting instrument that I know not a lot of people know how to play, and that makes me want to learn how to do it.
Saint Mary’s is a women’s college, so a unique aspect of the Saint Mary’s experience is the sisterhood. It’s special, and I know I’ll be a part of this sisterhood for the rest of my life.
What has your experience at Saint Mary’s been like?
Saint Mary’s is a women’s college, so a unique aspect of the Saint Mary’s experience is the sisterhood. It’s special, and I know I’ll be a part of this sisterhood for the rest of my life. It is a small school, so you are able to develop meaningful relationships with your classmates and professors. It’s also part of a tri-campus community with the University of Notre Dame and Holy Cross College. Because of that, I have been able to participate in some of the hundreds of clubs and activities offered at the two other campuses. I’ve gone to both the Saint Mary’s and the Notre Dame career fair. I can take classes offered at any one of the schools. You’re able to take advantage of the opportunities typically only larger academic institutions are able to offer, but you also have all the benefits that come with going to a smaller school, which is an amazing experience.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Saint Mary’s?
I was considering Texas A&M University, Illinois State University, and Butler University. I wanted to find a school where I could receive an education that would lead to a career. I came from a larger high school with a graduating class of 1,000, so I knew that I would thrive in a smaller environment, but I also really wanted the opportunity to be in a collegiate marching band, which is something a lot of small schools lack. At Saint Mary’s, you can audition for Notre Dame’s marching band, the Band of the Fighting Irish, so Saint Mary’s just checked all of my boxes. I visited campus for their Spring Preview Day, fell in love, and never looked back.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I took an AP statistics course in high school. If it wasn’t for that class, I most likely would not be where I am today. We had two actuaries who worked for Liberty Mutual come into class and tell us about their profession. They also told us about Liberty Mutual’s Outreach Day, which I attended. I visited their Chicago office and learned more about pursuing actuarial science as a career. I came home afterward, told my family I wanted to be an actuary, and here I am. I had already committed to Saint Mary’s when I went to Outreach Day. When I realized that this tiny women’s college actually had an actuarial science program, it felt like a miracle. It’s not a common program.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
I have been able to take classes that laid the foundation for passing Exam FM and Exam P. Saint Mary’s wants to see you succeed. They provide scholarships for passing actuarial exams and encourage us to attend math conferences such as the Joint Mathematics Meetings and the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, both of which I was able to attend last year. Going to those conferences is a good opportunity to network and see what you can do with a degree in actuarial science or mathematics. I was able to start a study group for Exam P with a few other girls and one of my professors, Dr. Kristin Kuter, who has helped me immensely throughout my mathematical journey at Saint Mary’s.
We have a math club at Saint Mary’s, and we also have Pi Mu Epsilon, which is a math honors society. We also have a panel of graduates from the Saint Mary’s math and computer science department who come back and talk to us. Last year we had an actuary come and give us advice.
Every Saint Mary’s student gets an advisor, and the advisors help you figure out when to take courses so you can have time to take your exams afterward. We also have a Career Crossings Office for career advice. I was kind of worried that they wouldn’t know what an actuary was or what I wanted to do, but the woman was super helpful. She knew exactly what I was talking about and helped me with my resume.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class so far is statistics. The class met twice a week, and one of the days was almost always dedicated to performing statistical tests in RStudio. I loved learning about statistics, but I also loved being able to actually apply it in the classroom. When I called home, I was excited to tell my parents what we were learning about in that class.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
Actuarial science allows you to study a variety of valuable topics. I’ve been able to learn about finance, economics, statistics, and how to critically think, analyze, and solve problems. I have classmates who graduated and became statisticians or are now enrolled in graduate school. It can pave the way for many rewarding opportunities.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you had known ahead of time?
The most challenging part was the actuarial exams. I wish I had known more about them before I started studying for my first exam. Especially because some of the exams change over time, it can be difficult to find resources online that are not outdated. If you can talk to someone in your actuarial science program who has taken the same courses as you and has sat for one of the exams, you can get some solid, reliable advice on studying.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
This summer I am interning with Milliman, remotely because of the pandemic. I’ll be focusing on casualty.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
Both at the undergraduate and graduate level, programs in statistics and data science are growing. The use of big data analytics can be found more and more in the insurance industry. Being able to work with and efficiently use enormous amounts of data is becoming much more of an important practice for insurance companies.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
The Saint Mary’s 4+1 program is online, so I’m already starting to take graduate classes in my senior year, but I’m also going to be searching for a job after graduation. I didn’t want to put my life on hold for a whole year while getting my master’s. I’m excited to complete my master’s, but I’m also excited to start a career. I also hope to one day finish my exams and become a fellow.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Develop your communication skills. It’s really important that you are able to relay information and results to others who do not have the same background as you. That’s something that can be harder to learn in a classroom, especially in courses that are dedicated to actuarial science. Also, taking classes in the communications department would greatly help. In the insurance field, there are a lot of players to interact with, and you need to be able to learn how to communicate with all of them.
» If you liked Amy’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.