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5 Shocking Truths about Chairing a CAS Committee!

By Rachel Hunter posted 07-08-2019 08:40


Now that I’ve got your attention with my click bait title, I want to share a bit about my experience volunteering with the CAS. I’m currently the Chairperson of the Candidate Liaison Committee (CLC), but it’s been an unexpected journey to get here.

In the summer of 2013 I finally finished partying to celebrate my FCAS and indicated on the CAS volunteering survey that I’d be interested in volunteering with something related to Admissions and Exams. I was contacted by the prior CLC chairperson, Dan Tevet, who told me about the opportunity to join as a volunteer. I learned that it would involve writing articles for the Future Fellows publication and providing feedback to the examination committee. At the time I was working in the same business unit as William Wilder who was taking on leadership of the Exam Committee, so it seemed relatively non-threatening to get involved since I already had that connection. I also was really interested in the goals of the committee because I personally struggled with some parts of the examination process and had ideas on what I’d like to see changed.

I initially contributed to the work of the committee by writing articles for the Future Fellows print edition and for the new blog created under Dan’s leadership. Through committee meetings and email, I also participated in discussions of issues related to the examination process. I also acted as a liaison for communication between the CLC and the Syllabus and Examination Committee. After I was on the committee for a couple years, Dan Tevet asked me to consider becoming the next chairperson. He explained that this would involve sharing some of the leadership responsibilities as vice chairperson and then taking over the committee leadership as chairperson for a term of three years. I realized it was probably not going to be too much additional work and felt it would be a good thing for me to do. I am glad I decided to say yes and was supported in doing so by my employer.

I promised you five shocking truths, but if you know what it’s like to volunteer with the CAS, you will probably not be shocked at all. Instead, let’s just say I’m sharing five reasons why volunteering with the CAS is “One Weird Trick to Grow Your Career Satisfaction Overnight”

  1. Getting to work with the passionate volunteers on the committee. The CLC is currently working on ways to increase two-way communication between candidates taking CAS exams and our committee so that we can share a broader scope of feedback to the Syllabus and Examination Committee as well as to the broader CAS leadership. This is an extra effort to build something new and the committee is driving a lot of the ideas on how and why we need to do this. I am especially impressed by the Candidate Representatives on our committee who are not yet CAS members as well as those members who have completed their ACAS but are still working toward FCAS. They balance their committee work with studying for exams. The rest of us are generally balancing the work with growing demands in our professional careers as well. It’s been interesting to watch the makeup of the committee change from year to year as we change the membership. I had a great time socializing over beers with some of the committee members after an in-person meeting last December.  
  2. Getting to know about the phenomenal work of the CAS staff.  Before I joined the CLC I only knew about one CAS staff member: Bob Craver who called me to tell me that I passed the old Exam 7 based on an appeal (Exam 7 was similar to current Exam 6US – do you like memorization? I do not!). I think Bob is amazing, but it’s no longer because of that “December 2009 miracle” phone call, instead it’s because I’ve seen him work with the examination committee to improve the process of grading, releasing results and responding to appeals. I no longer expect to see anyone to wait as long as I did to hear about an appeal for a spring exam. I’m also quite pleased to see exam result release dates being known well in advance. My involvement with the CLC has also given me the privilege to know other passionate CAS staff members involved with the Admissions process. When I started on the CLC we were supported by Ashley Zamperini and now she has become the CAS Director of Admissions and Stephanie Litrenta has taken on the role of helping the CLC with publishing Future Fellows, coordinating with other committees, setting up meetings and generally keeping things running smoothly. Mike Boa also helps with all our communications efforts. Mike is supporting us in our plans to revamp the Future Fellows area of the CAS website so that helpful exam-related content will be easier for candidates to find and so that we can improve our ability to get feedback directly from you.
  3. Knowing that I am influencing the future of an organization I care about. I’m a career changer who started taking the exams six years after completing college. I would have stopped taking those exams if I didn’t enjoy the nature of the work and working with CAS-credentialed actuaries. It matters to me to make the exams better for the next generation of actuaries. I don’t want candidates to struggle with ambiguous questions or not understand what is supposed to be tested from new syllabus content. I believe that we need exams that smart and sufficiently dedicated candidates can find a way to pass and not be worrying about exam quality. I have seen improvements to the syllabus content for those last two fellowship exams I struggled with and I’ve seen the exam committee moving in the right direction in writing and grading.   And I know the CAS will continue to improve the way it delivers and validates education for candidates. The CLC helps give feedback to prioritize things that have a positive impact on candidates such as when we collected feedback on last year’s Exam 5 TBE experience. If you have any feedback you’d like us to share with the Syllabus and Examination Committee or have any questions about exams you’d like us to help answer, please contact us through our Feedback Form.
  4. Practicing my organizational skills and getting support to make them better. Running a meeting and sticking to an agenda is surprisingly challenging for me. I can say that being forced to get a fixed number of things done in a one hour quarterly meeting has required me to improve my skills. In the office I can always schedule another meeting, but with the volunteer group I don’t have as much flexibility. This has forced me to improve on prioritizing what to cover, managing discussion flow, and sticking to the agenda. But I must admit that Stephanie Litrenta still gives me a lot of support in making sure it all goes well. In addition, the CAS has created a series of best practices and guidelines for their committee chairpersons that can help you get even more organized. Each year I get a little better at preparing to replace outgoing members of the committee and leveraging the support of volunteers on the committee to get more done. I’m already thinking about what helpful information I’ll hand over to my successor to help make their transition to chairperson easier.
  5. Growing my network of CAS professionals outside my company.  I have only worked at one large company during my actuarial career. Should I ever want to change that, it’s helpful to know that I’ve met people who work for other employers that I can reach out to. It’s also nice to have a group of folks I can connect with at CAS meetings that are not just my day-to-day work colleagues. Plus, it gives me a better sense of other types of jobs and companies that are out there. The fact that I’ve been a committee Chairperson probably makes  my commitment to the profession clear to others and means we may have many connections in common.

As a final note, I want to point out that the best way to one day lead a CAS committee is to start volunteering now. Even candidates still taking exams can volunteer for some committees and task forces. Feel free to share some of your favorite stories from volunteering with the CAS or other organizations in the comments section.

Not involved but want to be? Read these tips from Future Fellows on “Life after ACAS – Getting Involved and be sure to fill out this year’s volunteer participation survey to indicate your areas of interest.

If you’re not an ACAS yet but want to get involved with the CAS, two opportunities to get involved are:

 Best wishes in your future career with the CAS!

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