Alayna Meekins ’22
Alayna Meekins graduated from McDaniel College as the first student to hold a degree in Actuarial Science. A dual major in Economics, Meekins kept an eye on the future while pursuing her ideal career as an actuary. Support from professors and alums alike helped set her up for success, and her plans aren't over yet.
As the first student to graduate from McDaniel College with the Actuarial Science major, Alayna Meekins is proud to have weighed the risks of taking on the challenge and succeeded. “I had done the research, and I knew what I was getting myself into,” she says.
A lifelong planner, Meekins discovered the actuarial field as a sophomore, while she was considering future careers for her first major, Economics. Her Economics advisor at the time, Professor Ethan Seidel, recommended she dual major in Actuarial Science, a program that the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science was only just beginning to develop at that time.
“Actuarial science is a combination of calculus and probability,” explains Meekins. “It measures the probability of different events occurring. It’s not a common field, but it does a lot of things that I think people don’t think about.”
Actuaries are typically involved in fields that rely on analyzing risk, says Meekins, like insurance, which ranges from life and health to property. Many businesses and even the government have a need for actuaries, and the median salary is over $100,000. To claim the title of actuary, one must first pass three notoriously difficult certification exams. There are then anywhere from six to eight additional certification exams to specialize in a specific field.
Meekins is interested in the property casualty side of insurance and currently works as an analyst at USI Insurance. “I get to see how the actuarial science programming and mathematics are applied by insurance companies, as well as carrier and client interactions.”
It was her fascination with the career possibilities that led Meekins to take on the new major. As the only student pursuing certain subjects for her Actuarial Science degree, she learned a lot through independent studies with her professors, covering topics like mathematical statistics and actuarial loss modeling.
At the same time, she was taking courses for her Economics degree. Her favorite class was Financial Mathematics, which prepares students for the Actuarial Exam FM (Financial Mathematics) from the Society of Actuaries.
“Every actuarial scientist uses a lot of math, but it’s also a lot of modeling. You have to be able to predict the unknown in whatever format that you’re modeling in and fit the scenario to each specific model,” says Meekins. This concept was central in her senior capstone, titled “Actuarial Analysis of Flood Insurance.” She researched how FEMA has historically priced flood insurance in Ocean City, Maryland, based on the characteristics of flooding events in that area.
Her Actuarial Science advisor, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Spencer Hamblen, connected Meekins with an alum working as an actuary, David Christhilf ’67. Christhilf is an actuary for the District of Columbia Department of Insurance in the securities and banking division, and he provided valuable advice on the career and the complicated certification process.
Hamblen was a central figure in Meekins’ journey through the Actuarial Science major. “Even if he didn’t know the answers, he was willing to try to help me find them,” she says. She also credits Professor of Economics and Business Administration Kevin McIntyre, whose Economics capstone course was one of her favorites during her time at McDaniel.
“I loved that all of my professors knew who I was if they saw me walking by,” Meekins says, describing how McDaniel’s small size was one of her favorite aspects of the college. “I got to make some really great connections through all of the people I was able to know.”
While Meekins is at the start of her journey toward an actuarial career, in her first year post-graduation, she plans to earn the rigorous certification to become an actuary. One day, she hopes to join a consulting actuary firm or potentially launch her own.
“Actuarial science will always be a necessity, even though many people my age don’t know what it is,” says Meekins. “But many in the field at this time are getting ready to retire, so this is really the time to find a job in this career.”
Her final advice to current students? “Plan a lot. Knowing what I wanted to do with my life helped me through difficult times by keeping me excited about my future.”
Career: Insurance analyst
Major: Actuarial Science and Economics