Haley Ruggles is a senior at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Florida, where she is majoring in mathematics and minoring in economics. Haley is a co-founder of The Actuarial Club at the University of Tampa (ACUT), a member of Sigma Kappa sorority, and a member of The University of Tampa’s Equestrian Club. We spoke with Haley in April 2021.
Tell us one thing about yourself that’s not on your resume.
I love horseback riding. I used to compete in shows, but now I just ride for fun. We have two horses at my family home, so riding them and taking care of the barn when I’m home is such a great stress reliever. I hope it’s something I always do.
What has your experience at the University of Tampa been like?
My experience at UT has been amazing. In my opinion, it’s the perfect size. I’m always meeting new people, but my class sizes are never larger than 30. This has helped me as a student, and it also makes it so easy to be involved. I’m in Sigma Kappa sorority, The University of Tampa’s Equestrian Club, and The Actuarial Club at the University of Tampa (ACUT). I really feel like part of the community. The palm trees and the beauty of the campus are, of course, a bonus.
Don’t get too stuck in the books. Studying is important, but so is being involved on campus and getting the most out of your college experience. With strong time management, you can do it all.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose the University of Tampa?
I went to a state school in New York close to home my freshman year, and I transferred to UT for my sophomore year. I saw pictures of the University of Tampa, and when I went to visit, I was given presentations about their mathematics program and honors program. That solidified my decision to transfer. I think the decision to spend my remaining three years of college in a new city was great for my personal growth, and I’m so glad I made that change.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
Math has always been my favorite subject, but I wasn’t sure what career I was going to apply it to. A semester before the implementation of UT’s new actuarial program, we had guest speakers come in and tell us about their experience being actuarial scientists. It was then that I knew that this was the path I wanted to pursue, and I started preparing on my own.
The new program head, Dr. Khyam Paneru, was my probability and statistics professor. He immediately became an amazing mentor to me. He advised me on my exam preparation, and he also became my research advisor for undergraduate research in the insurance field.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
For math students, an actuarial science path allows them to use their skills to examine and improve real-life problems and eliminate risks. It is also a growing field as the employment of actuaries is projected to grow over 20 percent in the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
My experience with the actuarial science program at UT has been fantastic. Although I’m not technically graduating as part of the program because I was a senior when it was implemented, the actuarial science program still welcomed me with open arms and got me ready to begin a career in actuarial science when I graduate.
The program offers classes with Validation of Educational Experiences (VEE) credit, as well as classes created specifically to prepare students for the first two exams. I’m excited to see this program continue to help students, especially underclassmen who will get the full experience
We also have The Actuarial Club at the University of Tampa (ACUT) that I co-founded along with three other students and Dr. Khyam Paneru. We decided that a club would be a great way for like-minded students to be able to prepare for exams together and give each other advice. Now we have meetings every other week, and it’s been a great experience so far.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
I’ve enjoyed so many of my classes at UT, but one that really stood out for me was MAT 420: Modern Abstract Algebra. It was one of the first math courses I took that consisted of more theories and writing than actually crunching numbers. It gave me a new, deeper understanding of mathematics. My professor, Dr. Brian Garman, applied what he was teaching us to the Rubik’s Cube. We learned to solve it throughout the semester, and it’s still a great party trick.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
I think the most unique part about focusing on actuarial science is that your college courses aren’t enough. They do help you with the SOA and CAS examinations, but it is up to you to schedule and prepare for the examinations on your own.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
The most challenging part about studying actuarial science is how disciplined you have to be. I was used to being able to start studying for tests a couple of days before. My first actuary exam was a totally new experience. It was the first time in my life that I studied for an exam for several months, and I had to learn to push myself to stay motivated.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I was planning to gain internship experience the summer before my senior year, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the COVID climate. However, there were some positives to having more free time. During the pandemic, I was able to pass an exam months earlier than I originally planned. I had time to work with an English professor to prepare a writing piece I authored, and I had time to work on my undergraduate research.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
My immediate goal is to secure an entry-level position with a leader in insurance, where I can contribute both my analytical skills and my strong communication skills. My long-term goal is to become a fellow in one of the actuarial societies and progress my role into a leadership position.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
I would advise them to give it a shot. I know actuarial science isn’t for everyone, and you have to be very disciplined and a strong test taker. But in general, I think insurance is such an interesting field for anyone who likes problem-solving.
I would also advise anyone who does choose to study actuarial science to not get too stuck in the books. Studying is important, but so is being involved on campus and getting the most out of your college experience. With strong time management, you can do it all.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
My favorite media has been from YouTube. There are so many different videos on the platform where people talk about their experiences in the field and take you through a day in their life. YouTube has also been very helpful for my exams. If you search for whatever exam you’re preparing for, there are so many different videos with strategies for taking that exam. I like to try out different advice while taking practice tests, and then I stick with what worked for me.
» If you liked Haley’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.