UTEP awarded $375K by Prudential Financial to advance Risk Management Program

The College of Business Administration at The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded $375,000 from Prudential Financial Inc. to further advance the University’s Prudential Risk Management Academy and its associated programs.

The overarching goal of the collaboration between Prudential Financial Inc. and the College of Business Administration is to provide career pathways into the actuarial profession for UTEP students and to increase diversity in the actuarial workforce.

“The collaboration with Prudential Financial in their support of the Risk Management Academy serves as a model for business schools in developing talent for the future workforce needs of industry,” said James E. Payne, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business Administration.

This collaboration between Prudential Financial Inc. and the College of Business Administration (COBA) started in 2017 and currently is led by Erik Devos, Ph.D., associate dean for faculty development; Laura M. Uribarri, assistant dean for academic programs; and Danny F. Perez, director of the Risk Management Program.

The grant will allow the College of Business Administration to continue building a talent pipeline of UTEP students into the actuarial profession through a number of innovative activities. These include education of high school students, teachers and parents about the actuarial profession; recruitment of talented students into the programs; and academic and professional preparation of students toward successful actuarial careers.

“Our partnership with The University of Texas at El Paso is providing promising, diverse young talent with training and career development opportunities right in their local community,” said Rene Deida, director of corporate engagement with Prudential. “Quality jobs are essential components of sustainable financial wellness, and the students served by the risk management program will be well-equipped to enter the workforce with the competitive skill set they need to succeed.”

Actuaries are in high demand, with starting annual salaries ranging up to $100,000. Their job is to analyze the financial consequences of risk. To do so, they use mathematics, statistics and financial theory to study uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance companies and pension plans.

“We are proud to partner with Prudential on this innovative program that is creating new pathways for our students,” Uribarri said. “Given the opportunity provided by the Risk Management Academy and degree program, our students are working toward a very distinguished and highly sought-after actuarial career. This program truly embodies UTEP’s commitment to developing talent and social mobility.”

UTEP’s outreach and educational efforts in area high schools have been noticed by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) as unique and a model that SOA would like to see replicated across the country. These efforts include creating awareness of the actuary career opportunities among high school students and their parents. UTEP also hosts summer curriculum workshops for advanced placement (AP) math teachers.

The efforts are paying off, as 90 students are currently enrolled in the program. The Risk Management degree plan is heavily quantitative and includes courses in actuary finance, probability theory, statistics, economics and business analytics. In addition, students are taught to build complex Excel spreadsheets, write VBA Excel macros, create statistical and forecast models in SAS and R, as well as manipulate and organize large data sets.

Alongside the degree plan, COBA has built the Prudential Risk Management Academy. The academy is designed to help students develop leadership and business skills through executive visits, professional workshops, and engagement with peers from other universities, both domestic and international. The academy also helps students secure internships and provides a mentoring program with practicing certified actuaries.

Importantly, aspiring actuaries need to pass a series of exams to become certified. Therefore, the degree program and the academy also focus on exam preparation. As passing these exams is essential for success, financial assistance is available for students taking the exams, as is access to professional exam preparation materials.

“We provide significant support to students preparing for the actuarial exams,” Devos said. “We are very proud of their accomplishments to date, as several students just passed their first actuarial exam. Students have also secured prestigious internships. This truly marks an important milestone in the development of our Risk Management program.”

“By progressing through a rigorous examination process, students learn self-discipline and improve their problem-solving skills. The actuarial classes give students a competitive edge in the job market,” said CiCi Chiang, Ph.D., a professor in the Risk Management program and a certified actuary.

The Prudential grant also helps fund UTEP’s financial services boot camps. These boot camps prepare students for careers in the financial sector by giving them the tools they need to pass the SIE exam. The test is part of a series of certification exams that students must pass to enter careers in the financial services sector.

To date, about 50 students have been part of these boot camps. Students who pass the SIE exam have great career opportunities with global corporations located in El Paso.

The Society of Actuaries reports that currently only 2% of all actuaries are Hispanic/Latinx. In 2015, Prudential and the UTEP College of Business Administration partnered to launch the Risk Management Program in an effort to expand the Hispanic/Latinx talent pipeline in actuarial science.

During the past five years, Prudential has invested almost $1 million in support of this program and considers this UTEP COBA initiative to be one of its most significant partnerships in El Paso.

To learn more about the Risk Management and Actuary Academy at UTEP, visit their website.