What does Wall Street want?: VSU offers students glimpse into job opportunities

By Roger Walk

Virginia State University is offering its students of the Mathematics and Information Sciences Department information and hands-on practice in industry employment opportunities that could become their successful career path after their graduation.

Job opportunities are laid out to the students in presentations given by accomplished private sector executives who show and tell what the contribution of their employees with a math and IS background is and what career opportunities are available in their firms.

In addition, companies such as Genworth Financials and Honeywell provide internships for those students of the VSU Math and IS Department who want to spend some time and effort with “hands-on” activities in their firms to experience first hand how they can apply the skills and knowledge they are developing in their university courses.

Rob Vrolyk, Senior Vice President, who has been Chief Actuary of Genworth Financial Inc. since 2009, met with VSU students for an interactive presentation at VSU on April 15, 2015, to introduce them to the opportunities and challenges of an actuary in a financial or insurance company. This way the students can better understand the application of mathematics and computer science in an industry environment and better plan their professional careers after their graduation. The interactive presentation was also open to students of VSU’s School of Business.

Mr. Vrolyk who graduated from McGill University in Canada, and who has a background in math and computer science himself, began his career at Sun Life’s U.S. offices in 1985, serving in a variety of capacities there including financial actuary and Vice President and Chief Actuary before he joined Genworth in similar functions. Vrolyk has been instrumental in the development of the mathematical and computer science concepts used for their life insurance products. Vrolyk was also a driving force behind the establishment of paid academic internships for VSU students. The program is a way how Genworth, as a local company, gives back to the local community. The academic internship program is in its second year, and this year gives two students the opportunity to work part-time in the actuary department of the large insurance company in Richmond.

Vrolyk described the internship program not only as an orientation opportunity, but also as a direct opportunity to join the Genworth Financial workforce of approximately 5,500 employees and apply mathematics and computer sciences in its U.S. life insurance, annuity, or long-term care insurance business after passing the multiple examination steps for actuaries. “This is not a game.” said Vrolyk when he laid out the hard work that is ahead of students who prepare themselves for an actuary career.

Actuaries, as business professionals, deal with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. They provide assessments of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, their mathematics, and their mechanisms. Analytical skills, business knowledge and understanding of human behavior and the vagaries of information systems are required to design and manage programs that control insurance risk.

Wherever there is risk, there are opportunities for actuaries. The profession has consistently ranked as one of the most desirable in various studies over the years. In 2006, a study by U.S. News & World Report included actuaries among the 25 Best Professions that it expects will be in great demand in the future. A study published by job search website CareerCast ranked actuary relative to other jobs in the United States as number 1 in 2010 and 2013.

Vrolyk, in his talk, suggested to the students attending the chat that their future job orientation should take the principle “what does Wall Street want?” into their core considerations. Sharing his own career experience, Vrolyk encouraged the students to take on a demanding career path by saying “If you are good, luck will follow you.”

The recent financial crisis has further highlighted the skills actuaries bring to the table and the scope of actuarial profession has changed dramatically. While risk management skills were always of primary importance, now emphasis is also placed on presentation and communication skills. Today, the role of the actuary has moved beyond the back office and into the boardroom of corporate America. It is more vital than ever for actuaries to keep pace with this changing environment. 

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