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Erik Devos, Ph.D., associate dean in the College of Business Administration, back left, poses with several members of the first cohort of the college's Prudential Risk Management Academy during a recent gathering in the lobby of the Business Administration Building. Photo: J.R. Hernandez / UTEP Communications

UTEP, Prudential Financial Excited about New Finance Concentration

Math always had been the strongest subject for freshman Sofia Del Toro, but she was not sure how to capitalize on her interest at college. Her uncertainty dissipated after she learned about a new degree concentration at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Del Toro, an El Paso native, is among the 35 students who enrolled in the first cohort of the College of Business Administration’s risk management program under the umbrella of the Prudential Risk Management Academy in the Department of Economics and Finance.

UTEP officials say the new concentration was created with significant input from Prudential and other insurance industry leaders. It was designed to integrate finance and quantitative analysis coursework with professional skill development in a lab-based setting that employs “real world” business analytics software. It will focus on professional development activities, internship and job placement, and certification exam preparation. Graduates of the program will be well prepared for such high-demand jobs as actuaries, data analysts, portfolio risk managers and quantitative financial research analysts.

Del Toro said this program, which has an extensive support system, will help her achieve her goal to become an actuary, someone who uses statistics to project the probability of future events for finance, insurance, engineering and environmental firms, to name a few.

“This is something I wanted to try,” the first-generation college student said. “I love the fact that we will have a contact person who can answer our questions. That level of support makes me comfortable.”

COBA Dean Robert Nachtmann, DBA, commended Prudential for its leadership and support of this concentration that will integrate strong analytical skills and business acumen. He said it will create limitless professional opportunities in all types of fields around the world that require risk management skills.

Nachtmann described risk management as an evaluation of the economic impact of uncertainty in our lives in the areas of life, health, family and property.

“Anything we do in life basically has uncertain dimensions to it,” he said. “The analytical control of all of those risks is risk management.”

The new program, which has been in development for two years, launched Aug. 28, 2017. It marks the latest step in experiential learning that the college has embraced. The college’s other collaborations are with ADP, which started in fall 2016, and Lockheed Martin, which was announced in May 2017.

Prudential’s decision to collaborate with UTEP is part of a citywide strategy to create a skilled math and technology workforce in El Paso. Prudential recognizes UTEP’s strong academic programs, student demographic and the University’s important role in El Paso’s economic and workforce development.

“El Paso is a community with a strong spirit of collaboration and limitless opportunity,” said Lata Reddy, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Prudential Financial, and chair and president of The Prudential Foundation. “The Prudential Risk Management Academy will create new academic and employment pathways for UTEP students and help increase the level of diversity in the actuarial profession nationally.”

Prudential will support the academy with human and financial resources such as guest lecturers and professional learning opportunities to ensure the program’s success.

UTEP sophomore Edgardo Rey said he wanted to be an actuary, but did not want to leave his borderland home to go to college. He considered careers in science and marketing, but changed his mind after he learned about COBA’s new risk management program.

“When I found out about it, I had to apply,” said Rey, an El Paso native who grew up in Juárez. His initial goal is to help his family’s restaurant business in Juárez, but he eventually wants to start his own insurance company. “I thought it was a sign. I’m good at math and I’ve always been good at statistics.”

The initial interest in the program exceeded expectations despite a lack of time to advertise, said Erik Devos, Ph.D. associate dean for faculty development and professor of finance. He and Krista Snow, COBA’s director of corporate partnership programs, helped shepherd the program to fruition.

Devos said the students were drawn to the competitive curriculum, the industry involvement, and the knowledge that they are on a career path with a lot of upside.

“I am proud of everyone involved,” Devos said. “I’m very excited. This is the kind of program that enhances the relevancy of business education.”

Author: Daniel E. Perez – UTEP Communications

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