Oct 21 • 3 min read

Mary Grace Sear and Zilong ZhaoOver the summer, two undergraduate students from the Fox School of Business represented Temple University in the Windy City.

Actuarial science majors Mary Grace Sear and Zilong Zhao attended the Society of Actuaries’ (SOA) Center of Actuarial Excellence Student Summit, held Aug. 14-15 at the Renaissance Hotel in Chicago.

Sear and Zhao were two of the 50 students at the conference, which had representation by 25 CAEs from universities in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong.

The summit included a host of SOA guest speakers, including president-elect Errol Cramer, who offered career advice and tips to help students stay on the right track within their major. The two-day event also featured a communication improvisational workshop emphasizing the importance of listening skills, and another workshop that required the students in attendance to analyze and present case studies that focused on healthcare and life insurance.

“The improv workshop was very informative,” said Sear, a junior from Havertown, Pa., who is also minoring in Management Information Systems (MIS). “The takeaway was that although people worry about how they present themselves, what they look like or what they are going to say next, it is more important to listen to what’s going on around them.”

“I learned a lot from the workshops through the speakers but I learned a lot more from my peers,” said Zhao, a junior born in Baoji, China, whose family now resides in Scranton, Pa. “I was inspired by the students from Canada and Hong Kong because they have amazing actuarial exam progress. I was very interested in what their schools were like and, overall, it was a great networking experience.”

Sear and Zhao were selected to attend the event on the strength of their leadership and interpersonal skills by Dr. Krupa S. Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management and Director of Fox’s Actuarial Science program.  

“I chose Mary Grace and Zilong because not only do they possess strong analytical skills, they are both exceptionally well-rounded,” Viswanathan said. “Their strong communication skills were evident in class and through their participation in student organizations because they both held leadership roles.”

Outside of the classroom, Sear serves as Vice President of MIS at Gamma Iota Sigma, the risk and actuarial science business fraternity within the Fox School. Since his freshman year, Zhao has been active on campus. He currently serves as Vice President of Education at Temple Toastmasters, a student professional organization dedicated to communication and leadership development, and is an active member of Gamma Iota Sigma.

Sear and Zhao credited the Fox School with helping cultivate their leadership abilities.

“Fox really prepared me to be a professional,” said Zhao, who is also minoring in Computer Science. “While at the summit I was able to connect and network with people on a very professional level and confidently present the case studies to my peers. I love Temple, I love the program and the professors.”

Sear said her involvement with Gamma Iota Sigma, which hosts a career fair, requires etiquette workshops, resume reviews and mock interviews.

“Everything we learned at those workshops was extremely important because I had the appropriate networking skills to build on my professional contacts and network with various students at the conference,” Sear said.

Looking forward, Sear and Zhao said they are preparing for their upcoming actuarial exams, while also staying involved within the Temple community.

InsuranceManagement Information SystemsRiskRisk Insurance and Healthcare Management