Skip Navigation

Nebraska Goes Big

UNL's Center of Actuarial Excellence designation fits with Big Ten dominance

By Kim Hachiya, University Communications

UNL's presence in the Big Ten solidifies the conference's preeminence in actuarial science, the discipline that measures and quantifies risk. UNL is one of just 21 universities worldwide whose actuarial science program has achieved the prestigious distinction as a Center of Actuarial Excellence. UNL was among the first 13 institutions to win the honor in 2009. Since then, eight others have been recognized.

Big Ten peers Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin also boast CAE honors. UNL was the only member of the Big XII to achieve CAE status.

Centers of Actuarial Excellence meet or exceed rigorous curricular standards, have faculty with outstanding research and teaching credentials, graduate high quality students, have strong ties with industry and alumni, and advance research in the discipline.

Warren Luckner, who directs UNL's program in the College of Business Administration, said Nebraska's long-standing program (it was founded in 1957) focuses on pre-professional development and research.

"The thing that makes our program distinctive is the emphasis on the combination of strong academics and strong pre-professional preparation. That's been a hallmark of the Nebraska program from the beginning," Luckner said.

The program requires students to successfully complete internships, promotes networking through an active Actuarial Science club and requires completion of a capstone course. That course helps students transition from theory to application, and it emphasizes standards of practice and codes of conduct to excel in the industry.

Luckner said UNL's program heavily emphasizes oral and written communications. While the currency of the actuary is mathematics and probability, it's imperative that actuaries be able to communicate well, Luckner said. Actuaries provide information that allows industries, governments and others to make well-informed decisions and the ability to explain information is critical, he said.

The program has about 200 undergraduate students and 35 graduate students. Four faculty are associated with the program and a long-term goal to expand the program's offerings in the areas of enterprise risk management and casualty would require additional faculty.

UNL Professor of Practice Susan Vagts teaches a capstone course in actuarial science. The College of Business Administration program combines math and business to put a price tag on risk. An international group named the program a Center of Actuarial Excellence, reflecting its stature as one of the nation's top programs.

What's an actuary?

Actuaries put a price tag on risk. They are the leading professionals in finding ways to manage risk, and are experts in:

  • evaluating the likelihood of future events.
  • reducing the impact of undesirable events.
  • designing creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events.

Actuaries apply their mathematical expertise, statistical knowledge, economic and financial analyses, and problem-solving skills to a wide range of business problems. They help companies evaluate the long-term financial implications of their decisions; they develop new ways to manage risk, and they estimate the costs of uncertain future events ranging from tornadoes and hurricanes to changes in life expectancy.
- American Academy of Actuaries