I experienced a moment of déjà vu while serving as a volunteer facilitator at the 116th Fellowship Admission Course (FAC) at Miami Beach in December 2016. The sessions I attended and the fellowship candidates I met re-instilled in me the excitement for obtaining my own fellowship designation at the second FAC.
After completing the grueling exams, everyone deserves the reward of the newfound freedom to reconnect with family, friends and favorite pastimes. When these connections are once again strengthened, there also lies ahead another rewarding stage of fellowship designation—being a volunteer in the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Education system.
During the 25 years that have elapsed since obtaining my FSA, I have been participating in this second stage. Over these years, I progressed through many volunteer roles within the SOA Education system. While completing the various tasks within each volunteer role, I never lost sight of the recipients of my efforts—the candidates. By attending the 116th FAC and discussing my volunteer roles with our new crop of FSAs, I further reaped the rewards of volunteering. There I was, among those who had just successfully completed the fellowship requirements, requirements I helped to develop.
I have presented at several colleges in my home state of Florida about the experiences of working in the actuarial profession, but those experiences were often more about the profession rather than the potential candidates in the audience and the education process they would experience. Thus, such presentations were in contrast to what I experienced at the FAC, which was entirely about the candidates and the SOA Education system. These individuals were enthusiastic about this stage of their accomplishments and eager to demonstrate their abilities and motivation.
The enthusiasm of these new graduates validated the contributions I had made to their professional development as a volunteer. Moreover, thanks to their enthusiasm, I could not help but feel like a new candidate as well. It was like I had come full circle.
My Volunteer Years
One of my first actions as a fellow was to recruit proctors and register my worksite as an exam test center, thereby making it more convenient for the candidates in the area. Since then, my volunteer contributions have spanned much of the breadth of available volunteer positions. This includes the entry-level position of a volunteer item writer (exam question writer) and my current position of Past General Chair of the Education Executive.
I remember being excited when the first question I developed was included on an exam. As an item writer volunteer, you have the opportunity to apply your knowledge to the exam source material and to share in that excitement of having your question appear on an exam. I have met many great item writers, and I assure current candidates that, contrary to a popular belief among veteran fellows, the exams are not any easier than they used to be.
Other volunteer roles I held were Curriculum Committee member and Curriculum General Officer for the Individual Life and Annuities Fellowship track. This involved the fulfillment of the learning objectives for exams, authority over the exam study material choices and working collaboratively with the exam committees. From there, I became the Curriculum General Chairperson, and following that, the General Chairperson of the SOA Education Executive. The responsibilities of being a member of the Education Executive are significant and include ensuring all elements of the SOA’s designation pathway remain relevant in the long term, overseeing the volunteer personnel and their training, ensuring high standards for fairness and equity, and being responsible to the SOA board for implementing its requested strategy. The most recently requested strategy is the ASA Curriculum revisions that include new content around predictive analytics.
The Volunteer Years of Others
One could consider my current position to be both the highest level to attain within the volunteer system as well as the end-of-the-road position. I take pride in holding this role, but perhaps more important, I appreciate the personal growth and networking opportunities I have had during these past 25 years of volunteering.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES DATABASE
Members can now access the Society of Actuaries (SOA) volunteer opportunities database to identify and apply for volunteer roles. This real-time database helps you find projects that fit your availability and expertise area. You can also update your volunteer profile. See the list of volunteer opportunities and make your move now!
Through all this time, it is unlikely I have thanked other volunteers and members of the SOA staff often enough for their contributions. Through this article, I hope to let them know I saw firsthand the positive impact each of them has had on the lives of the graduates of the 116th FAC.
You can surmise that there are many roles available to members, each with its own unique responsibilities and rewards. I would encourage all SOA members to volunteer in some fashion, whether it be within the Education system, as a section member or in your community as a tutor of high school mathematics, which I have also enjoyed doing.
For myself, I intend to always serve as a proponent for volunteering, encouraging others to do so in as many different ways as I can imagine.