When Sara Benning visited University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration to learn more about the actuarial science program, she was inspired to move from Brookfield, Wisconsin, to Lincoln, Nebraska, and pursue her college degree. Four years later, she is graduating and plans to take the inspiration she cultivated in college to Denver, Colorado, as she starts her actuary career at Cigna, a health insurance company.
“I loved the small feel of the actuarial science program when I visited,” Benning said. “Warren Luckner, the director of the program, talked to me about opportunities I would have here that I couldn’t find anywhere else. He told me about the Raikes School and that really made a difference.”
Benning combined her actuarial science program with admission to the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, which facilitated a breadth of education she could not find elsewhere.
“Getting in the Raikes School was a challenge I wanted to accomplish. It allowed me to add minors in computer science, finance and math. The hardest part is combining all the specific classes you have to take for actuarial science and for Raikes.”
Benning with Jeff Raikes at Design Studio presentations
She credits the advising program for keeping her on track and the camaraderie in both programs for motivating her.
“The classes at Raikes are fun because you take them with friends who you live with and study together. You learn how to help each other right away in freshmen year computer science. During my junior year, it really paid off because I had to build a stock portfolio website for my finance class. The web services were complicated and involved pulling down stock tickets, graphing them historically and interpreting the data. I was thankful to have classmates I could go to for help when something broke.”
Benning spent the past year working in a team environment on a design studio project with Speedway Motors.
“We’re building an app which will facilitate customers who run into a problem while working on a car in their garage. Our app is designed to analyze the questions customers submit and get them the correct answer as quickly as possible. We meet with Speedway managers regularly on campus and at their facility.”
She also learned team concepts in actuarial science from participating in club activities and interning at two insurance companies in Wisconsin during summer months.
Benning demonstrating her team's app
“When you’re at an internship, you learn to analyze data more critically and find out if it looks reasonable. It takes experience interpreting data and for me it’s fun to talk with experienced co-workers to learn what they look for in the numbers.”
In 2013, Benning received the Actuary of Tomorrow - Stuart A. Robertson Memorial Scholarship, a national award presented by The Actuarial Foundation which Luckner views as the most prestigious scholarship for actuarial science students nationwide.
“Sara’s national recognition and participation at UNL have been remarkable," said Luckner. "She was elected actuarial science club president, represented the program at the Society of Actuaries Centers of Actuarial Excellence Student Summit and served as a student representative on a faculty search committee. She will be an excellent ambassador for our program as an alum.”
While much of the country is anxious about the new national healthcare legislation, Benning is ready to apply what she has learned at Cigna.
“I think it will be exciting to figure out the full impact of the Affordable Care Act and see what that looks like at my new job. The values of communication and leadership I learned at UNL, along with the emphasis on teamwork and work-life balance, are the top things I was looking for and Cigna was the perfect match.”