Why I Give Back to Students and How You Can Too

November 8, 2021
By: Susan Witcraft


In your view, what is the Modeling the Future Challenge and how does it prepare tomorrow’s leaders?

The Modeling the Future Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to take the math, statistics, and modeling knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom and elsewhere and apply it to real-world topics that interest them. When learned in the classroom, the acquisition of this knowledge can often seem boring or irrelevant to students. I’ve heard a number of students and team coaches talk about how the Challenge highlighted the value of this knowledge and provided increased motivation for the students to continue their study of these topics.

The Challenge provides the students with opportunities to practice and demonstrate a very wide range of skills needed to be the successful leaders of tomorrow. These skills include the math, statistics, and modeling knowledge I’ve mentioned above. In addition, students need to understand and define a problem, identify data and models that can provide insights on the problem, and draw conclusions from their analyses.

Communication is also an essential part of the Challenge. Once students have completed their work, they write a report describing the problem, their work, and their conclusions and its risks. The Finalists demonstrate their oral communication skills during interviews with a panel of five or six experienced actuaries. Seeing these young people respond to questions from such a potentially intimidating audience is amazing! All of these skills are critical to becoming a successful leader.

What is your involvement with the Modeling the Future Challenge?

I’ve been involved in the Modeling the Future Challenge almost since its inception. For the first Challenge, I helped design the Challenge questions and obtained data that students could use in their analyses. Since then, I have judged the contest twice and am about to start my second year as a mentor. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a judge and been amazed at the high quality of the students’ work and presentations, my role as a mentor has been the most personally gratifying. Not only have I helped team members overcome obstacles in their projects, but I’ve provided my insights on questions about colleges, areas of study, and career opportunities.

How are you currently giving back to the community?

Currently, most of my community giving is through The Actuarial Foundation. I am a Foundation Trustee, have been the Chair of the Program Committee, and currently serve on the Risk Management Committee. In addition, I volunteer my time to support the Modeling the Future Challenge and the Foundation’s newly introduced pilot program focused on providing financial literacy tutoring to high school students.

Math and financial literacy education are two of my passions. Before the pandemic, I assisted Girl Scout leaders in my community by leading financial literacy badges for their Scouts. Over the past several years, I’ve written a financial literacy blog, www.financialiqbysusieq.com. My passion for financial literacy education heightened as my children started making their own financial decisions — employee benefits, car insurance, home buying, mortgages, and the like — and I realized that, even though they grew up in a household in which their mother was a financially focused actuary, there were so many details about financial decisions that they didn’t know. There are many young people who were not as fortunate and are therefore less prepared to make financial decisions. To the extent that I can help even a few people make better financial decisions, it will help society as a whole.

As we approach this year’s GivingTuesday and the holiday season, I challenge everyone to help society by giving back in some form. Whether you’re a math person, have a passion for education, or are into financial literacy, there are many opportunities both through and outside of The Actuarial Foundation to volunteer, mentor, judge, or give back through a financial donation. If you choose to contribute to The Actuarial Foundation through this year’s GivingTuesday campaign, your donation will support the Modeling the Future Challenge.