December 8, 2010

Warren Luckner Leads Nebraska Actuarial Science Excellence to Big Ten

The Actuarial Science program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has long been held in high esteem. Warren Luckner, Director of the Program, believes joining the Big Ten will only help to make a good thing even better.

“There was a quote from the director of the Actuarial Science program at Illinois when we moved to the Big Ten that Nebraska excels in two areas which are Agriculture and Actuarial Science,” said Luckner. “The quote also mentioned that the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten solidifies the preeminence of the Big Ten in Actuarial Science. That reflects the quality of our program here at Nebraska.”

The Actuarial Science program at UNL received the distinction of being among the first group to be designated as a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries. Luckner, who originally worked at UNL from 1977 to 1986 came back again in 2003 and has been a leading influence in ensuring the strength of the program.

“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 and the main reason I came back here is because of that emphasis on the pre-professional.”

There are several components to the pre-professional aspect of the program which include internship opportunities, an active Actuarial Science club, and a capstone course originally developed by Assistant Professor of Practice Sue Vagts which emphasizes aspects of the profession beyond the academics.

“We emphasize that every student have at least one internship opportunity while they’re here and most of them do more than one. Last summer we had 30 students on internships. That’s a very important exposure to the profession and potential careers.

“We also have a very active club which offers both fun and service opportunities. We participated in the Relay for Life and in the Big Event a community service project that the whole University participates in. Our club brings people together so it exposes them to more of the professional aspects of the program and creates camaraderie among the students.”

The capstone course completes the Actuarial Science program by introducing students to standards of practice and codes of conduct needed to excel in the industry. It also facilitates bringing in guest speakers such as the President of the Society of Actuaries.

“We’ve also emphasized the importance of their ability to communicate in writing. All of our graded work in that class is based on writing reports. When you’re an actuary your fundamental foundation is probability. You do a lot of quantitative reasoning and model building but you have to be able to communicate that effectively to those that make the decisions or your work is not as helpful to your organization. So we emphasize developing the ability to write reports.”

Luckner’s own accomplishments such as being named the 2010 UNL Student Foundation - Builder's Award for Outstanding Academic Advising are testaments to the special bond between faculty and the students in the Actuarial Science Program. Luckner was also endowed as the first David P. Hayes Memorial Chair in Actuarial Science.

“Having an endowed professorship from the David P. Hayes professorship is particularly meaningful to me because he was a student of mine. He died prematurely but because his parents felt so good about his experience at the program when he was here in the 1980’s they endowed this professorship and I was honored to be selected as the first David P. Hayes memorial chair.”

As the program moves into the Big Ten under Luckner’s leadership, there is no better opportunity anywhere in the country for students interested in actuarial science than right here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.