Although the actuarial science concentration was removed from Wharton's homepage late last semester, Penn will continue to offer the program after students expressed concerns to administrators.
The concentration was originally removed from the website in November 2019 because of the planned retirement of Jean Lemaire, director of the actuarial science program and the only faculty member currently involved in the program. However, Wharton Deputy Dean Michael Gibbons wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Lemaire will continue to serve as an academic advisor for the actuarial science concentration and the program is expected to continue for three more years.
Gibbons wrote that Wharton plans to offer two of the three classes Lemaire taught as part of the actuarial science concentration. Lemaire said though he will no longer teach, he has found a replacement he hopes will be confirmed by Wharton soon.
College first-year David Jin said he found out about canceling the concentration through a Snapchat story.
“I felt that the way that they did it was very abrupt,” Jin said. “They could have eased the students into the announcement as opposed to just dropping [it] on them.”
Wharton junior and Penn Actuarial Society President Gabriel Lozano said Wharton administrators were receptive when he reached out expressing his concerns about the future of the program.
“For the younger people, it is important for them to know what is going to happen,” Lozano added. “Because if they come here wanting to study that or if they're very interested into the concentration or minor, they do want to know what's going to happen.”
Lozano said Penn's Actuarial Society will continue indefinitely for interested students.
Lemaire said he decided to continue advising students interested in actuarial science because advising is critical for students in the concentration.
“I agreed to continue to advise because I am the only actuary in the school and advising is important,” Lemaire said. “I have the connections with the recruiters from insurance industry and connections with the actuary society that organizes the exam.”
However, Lemaire also added that the enrollment in the concentration has been on the decline in recent years, with only nine students in STAT 451 and three students in STAT 452 last semester, two of the actuarial science classes he teaches.
“[Actuarial science] declined nationally because of competition from other statistic specialties like big data and data science,” Lemaire said.
Actuarial science involves compiling and analyzing statistics to calculate risks in insurance and finance. The profession applies mathematics to model uncertainty and evaluates the probability and financial consequences of future events.
In contrast, the actuarial mathematics minor in the College is “quite popular” with over 30 students in the program, according to Math professor Tony Pantev.
Pantev said other professors in the Math department were worried Wharton would cancel the actuarial program when Lemaire announced his retirement.
“We have a lot of people that want to continue with this program, and we'll need to find some substitutes for those courses,” Pantev added.
Wharton first year Julian Zambrano felt "blindsided" by the program's sudden removal from the website, but is glad the program will not be canceled while he is at Penn.
“It’s better than just removing the concentration from the website and then saying that it's going to be over,” Zambrano added.
Zambrano and Jin agree that while the concentration isn’t necessary to become an actuary, it can help students prepare for fundamental actuary exams.
To become an actuary in the United States, students are required to take up to ten exams administered by either the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society depending on the actuarial specialty.
“The classes prepare you for the exams and these exams are not a walk in the park.” Lozano said. “It's also a platform for you to get exposure to the industry, where you start making your networks.”