After earning a B.S. in mathematics and an MBA from Pensacola Christian College, Ariane Lara still wasn’t sure how to proceed with her career. Pursuing a Master of Actuarial Science/M.S. in Quantitative Risk Analysis & Management dual degree from Robinson seemed like a practical next step that would build on her passion for math. But financing her studies posed a problem.
Fortunately, she landed a graduate research assistantship (GRA) in the Department of Risk Management & Insurance (RMI); the position includes a full tuition waiver as well as a monthly stipend.
“I relocated here from El Salvador to continue my education. Applying for a loan would have been complicated since I’m not American and don’t have a credit history,” Lara said. “I’m extremely grateful.”
During her first semester, Lara realized she wants to work in the risk department for a large corporation. The epiphany struck her for two reasons. First, she really enjoyed the material presented in Stephen Shore’s Theory of Risk Sharing class, especially using utility curves to analyze individual comfort with or aversion to risk. Second, Robinson offered Lara the opportunity to network with risk professionals from companies like State Bank and JKK.
“When they talked to me about their jobs, it hit me,” Lara explained. “I said to myself, ‘That sounds great. I want to do that.’”
Lara also thrived in Hamed Amini’s Financial Engineering course. Throughout the semester, she used mathematical tools and models to price stocks and predict their future value.
“We used a lot of integrals and derivatives, which I loved,” Lara said. “I’m a math nerd.”
Just because Lara loved the class doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. She and her classmates regularly studied in groups, to make sure everyone had absorbed the concepts.
“Of course, we gave ourselves enough time in case no one understood it. Then we’d go back and ask the professor,” she laughed.
As part of her GRA assignment, Lara conducts research for faculty and staff members in the RMI department—anything from evaluating the competitive landscape for risk-related certificate programs to gathering contact information into a spreadsheet.
“I basically perform tasks that would consume hours of their time, and boil down the information so they can quickly make a decision,” Lara said. “It’s gratifying to know I’m helping the department. And, it balances well with my classes.”