Letter from our Chair!

April 23, 2020

Dear S&AS Students, Faculty and Staff,

Over the last few weeks, we’ve experienced unprecedented change and turbulence due to COVID-19. We have been asked to adapt overnight and we still face many unknowns. In turn, our department has risen to these challenges, and we’ve shown how we can band together and support each other as we navigate this crisis. I’m extremely proud of the way in which our faculty, staff and students have exhibited strength, flexibility, patience and compassion as we find creative ways to keep moving forward. I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate all of you and to celebrate some of our students’ outstanding achievements.

I am happy to recognize our outstanding teaching assistants with the finalists for this year’s Craig Award (in alphabetical order by first name):

  • Alex Liebrecht – Alex stunned the Awards Committee by almost-universally positive and enthusiastic student teaching evaluations — both for Statistics for Business discussion and as solo instructor for Elementary Statistics and Inference. Also, Alex received a record number of similarly passionate and enthusiastic award nominations from all reaches within the department — grad students, faculty and staff. He shares his teaching wisdom and acuity with all members of the department and is cherished by students.
  • Brad Dougherty – Brad’s TA performance is notable for his very rapid rate of improvement in teaching effectiveness over his two years of teaching Statistics for Business discussion — especially as evidenced by student teaching evaluations and comments. He is a highly organized and effective instructor. In addition, Brad exhibits natural leadership and management skills, having served as Lead TA in Statistics for Business the past two semesters.
  • Ruida Song – Ruida’s teaching-evaluation metrics for Statistics for Business discussion are very high and reinforced by numerous positive student comments. He is a very effective and popular instructor. Ruida was warmly and strongly nominated for the award by his supervising faculty.
  • Siyang Tao (Craig Award Winner) – The Awards Committee observed that Siyang is a consummate teaching professional, known for his “behind the scenes” curricular development — for instance, for both Statistics for the Engineering and Physical Sciences discussion and his solo course Actuarial Exam P Preparation — as well as for his highly efficient and effective lecturing style. Siyang’s consistently warm, calm and steadfast demeanor in the classroom generates confidence and great affection among his students.  Congratulations, Siyang!

The annual awards for exceptional academic performance in the 2019-20 academic year are presented to the following students.  You can read about each of them following the list of awards.

  • Knowler Award for outstanding achievement in actuarial science goes to Nicholas Culver and Anis Ilyana Hairol Azizi.
  • Taylor-Cosby Award for outstanding achievement in ACTS:3080 goes to Jordan Turner and Jiantong (Brook) Li.
  • Taylor-Craig Award for outstanding achievement in ACTS:4130 goes to Jordan Turner and Ian Vasily.
  • Taylor-Knowler Award for outstanding achievement in ACTS:4280 goes to Anis Ilyana Hairol Azizi and Frederic Oke-Agbo.
  • Taylor Award in Actuarial Stochastics for outstanding PhD student in actuarial research goes to Jin Meng.
  • Black-Scholes Award for outstanding achievement in ACTS:4380 goes to Emily Fishel.

Anis Ilyana Hairol Azizi received one of the top scores in ACTS:4280, Life Contingencies II. She has passed SOA exams P and FM. Anis is graduating this May with a BS in Actuarial Science and with a Risk Management and Insurance Certificate. She has been on the Dean’s List or President’s List every semester at Iowa. Following graduation, Anis will return to Malaysia to work for PETRONAS in their Finance or Risk Management area. Congratulations, Anis!

Nick Culver has been one of our top actuarial science students for all four years of his undergraduate studies; he has been on the Dean’s List or President’s List every semester. Nick has passed five SOA exams: P, FM, IFM, LTAM and SRM. This May, he will graduate with honors, completing degrees in both Actuarial Science and Mathematics. Nick will begin a full-time position as an Actuarial Analyst at Global Atlantic Financial Group in Des Moines this summer. Congratulations, Nick!

Emily Fishel is one of the most active and strongest students in our program. Emily has recently served as the President of the Actuarial Science Club where she has led the executive board in event planning and engagement of students. Under Emily’s leadership, trips to visit insurance companies were organized, visits to the Freshman Seminar class by upperclassmen occurred, a fundraising effort was initiated, and several alumni gave presentations to our students. Emily has passed SOA exams P, FM and IFM. This summer she will work as an Actuarial Intern at Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. Congratulations, Emily!

 Brook Li also received one of the top grades in ACT:3080, Mathematics of Finance. Brook has passed SOA exams P and FM. He has an undergraduate degree in Information and Computing Science and is currently enrolled in our master’s program in Actuarial Science. Congratulations, Brook!

Jin Meng is currently a PhD student in Actuarial Science. Jin received his master’s degree from our department in May 2014. He has passed four SOA exams: P, FM, MFE and MLC. He is a previous recipient of the Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) Research Grant. Jin plans to complete his PhD this summer. His advisor is Kung-Sik Chan and the title of his thesis is “Topics in High Dimensional Statistical Learning, with Applications in Property-Casualty Insurance.” Congratulations, Jin!

 Frederic Oke-Agbo will receive his master’s degree in Actuarial Science this May. He has passed three actuarial exams: P, FM and IFM. Frederic has served as a teaching assistant in our department and has been actively involved with the Actuarial Science Club on campus. Congratulations, Frederic!

Jordan Turner received one of the top grades in ACTS:3080, Mathematics of Finance. He has passed SOA exams P and FM and has several VEE credits. He is pursuing a triple major in Actuarial Science, Statistics, and Mathematics and has been on the Dean’s List or President’s List every semester at Iowa. This summer, Jordan will work as an intern at Allianz Life in Minneapolis with their Finance Reporting Team. Congratulations, Jordan!

Ian Vasily had one of the strongest performances in ACTS:4130, Quantitative Methods for Actuaries last fall. This summer, Ian will begin a full-time job with Nyhart working as an actuarial consultant. Congratulations, Ian! We wish you all the best.

To learn more about our annual student awards, please check out our web page:  https://stat.uiowa.edu/awards-and-scholarships-statistics-and-actuarial-science-graduate-students#overlay-context=graduate-programs

In addition to all our student award recipients, we take great pride in our May 2020 graduating class. Not only did these talented individuals excel throughout their time at the University of Iowa, but they also successfully traversed the choppy waters of the last several weeks and proved that even a pandemic cannot deter them from achieving their goals!  In particular, let me particularly acknowledge our first graduates in Data Science:  Matthew Naples and Cory Skeers!

 Our congratulations to the following undergraduates:

  • Muhammad Ariff Abdul Malik – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Mathematics Minor
  • Melissa Adrian – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics, Large Data Analysis Certificate 
  • Brookelyn Arnold – BA Mathematics, BS Statistics, Large Data Analysis Certificate, Sport and Recreation Management Minor
  • Natalie Averkamp – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics, Computer Science Minor
  • Anis Ilyana Binti Hairol Azizi – BS Actuarial Science, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Mathematics Minor, Statistics Minor
  • Collin Brady – BS Statistics, BS Mathematics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Business Administration Minor 
  • Bridget Carroll – BA Mathematics, BS Statistics, BS Biology, Large Data Analysis Certificate, Computer Science Minor
  • Robert Catalano – BS Statistics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate 
  • Jiawei Cen – BA Art, BS Statistics 
  • Yizhe Chen – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor
  • Alec Ciaccio – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Business Administration Minor
  • Abigail Cox – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Economics Minor 
  • Nicholas Culver – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics
  • Nathan Stephen Cunicelli – BA Mathematics, BS Statistics, Philosophy Minor  
  • Jason Michael Dedas – BS Actuarial Science, BS Mathematics, Statistics Minor
  • Nathan Ross Deege – BS Statistics, BS Mathematics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate
  • Tyler Dean Dennis – BS Statistics 
  • Andrew McGuire Doyle – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics, BS Statistics 
  • Colin Duffy – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor
  • Angela Nicole Fiore – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics, Philosophy Minor
  • Daniel Edward Folchert – BS Actuarial Science, BS Computer Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor 
  • Song Gao – BA Computer Science, BS Statistics 
  • Nicholas Stephen Geati – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics 
  • Emily Grace Hay – BS Actuarial Science, Mathematics Minor, Statistics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate
  • Justin Kelana – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics, BS Statistics 
  • Baekjun Kim – BS Computer Science, BS Statistics 
  • Cody Charles Krause – BA Mathematics, BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate   
  • Zachary Kuenstler – BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate 
  • Wei Hong Lam – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate
  • Dongqing Li – BS Statistics, BA Mathematics, Large Data Analysis Certificate    
  • Xiaowen Li – BS Statistics, BA Mathematics 
  • Xinru Li – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics 
  • Zhirui Li – BS Mathematics, BA Physics, BS Statistics, Computer Science Minor
  • Ruibo Liu – BA Mathematics, BS Statistics
  • Yexin Liu – BS Statistics, BS Mathematics, Mathematics Minor 
  • You Lyu – BS Statistics, BS Mathematics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate  
  • Zexi Mao – BA Mathematics, BS Statistics 
  • Matthew Naples – BS Data Science
  • Mason Jay Newhard – BS Actuarial Science, Business Administration Minor, Mathematics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate
  • Hung T. Nguyen – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate 
  • Joel Matthew Northrup – BS Statistics, BA Russian
  • Morgan Brittany Novak – BS Actuarial Science, BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor 
  • Zhenglyu Qian – BA Psychology, BS Statistics 
  • Anthony Michael Rickhoff – BS Statistics, BS Mathematics, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate   
  • Rachel E. Rinehart – BS Actuarial Science, Mathematics Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate, Statistics Minor
  • Rhedt Roelandt – BS Statistics, Sport and Recreation Management Minor
  • Adam Schuck – BS Statistics, Sport and Recreation Management Minor
  • Abolaji Abdul Shiwoku – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics, Business Administration Minor, Risk Management and Insurance Certificate
  • Rizwan Sidhu – BBA Finance, BS Statistics, Computer Science Minor, Large Data Analysis Certificate
  • Paul Anthony Sirena – BS Statistics, Mathematics Minor
  • Cory Skeers – BS Data Science
  • Megan Maria Svara – BS Actuarial Science, BA Mathematics, Business Administration Minor, Statistics Minor
  • Sanjeev Thangarajah – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics, Business Administration Minor
  • Allison Ruth Wahrman – BS Statistics, Sport and Recreation Management Minor 
  • Benjamin Michael Willcockson – BA Economics, BS Statistics  
  • Lirui Xiao – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics  
  • Yuzhe Yan – BS Statistics 
  • Yilin Ye – BS Actuarial Science, BS Mathematics, BS Statistics  
  • Yuyan Ying – BS Mathematics, BS Statistics  
  • Jiahua Zhang – BS Computer Science, BS Statistics
  • Yu Zhang – BS Statistics, Writing Certificate 
  • Yuke Zhang – BA Computer Science, BBA Finance, BS Mathematics, BS Statistics  
  • Keyuan Zhao – BS Statistics 
  • Zhiang Zhao – BS Statistics 

Our congratulations to the following MS and PhD graduates:

  • Keean Amiri-Razavian – MS Actuarial Science
  • Brady Anderson – MS Statistics
  • Bradley Jacob Dougherty – MS Statistics
  • Yunju Im – PhD Statistics
  • Rui Jin – PhD Statistics
  • Yomi Kang – MS Actuarial Science
  • Alexander Liebrecht – MS Statistics
  • Shiao Liu – MS Statistics
  • Daniel Meir Niv – MS Actuarial Science
  • Oussa Frederic Oke-Agbo – MS Actuarial Science
  • Tao Wang – MS Actuarial Science
  • Xingzhi Wang – MS Statistics
  • Zhen Wang – MS Statistics
  • Fei Wu – MS Statistics
  • Zongyi Xu – MS Statistics
  • Han (Hermione) Yu – MS Actuarial Science
  • Ling Zhang – MS Statistics
  • Qiansheng Zhu – PhD Statistics

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to proudly acknowledge each and every one of you for persevering and thriving during this chaotic time. Our faculty’s excellence and enthusiasm for teaching have shone through as they suddenly pivoted to online instruction, and we are incredibly grateful for their dedication to our students’ education. Our students’ willingness to engage and collaborate as they have quickly shifted to new ways of learning has been nothing short of inspiring. Our staff members have also had to suddenly adapt to new working conditions and we are so thankful for their support. I have no doubt that our department will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever, together. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and your families.

With warmest regards,

Kung-Sik Chan

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Kung-Sik Chan

Robert V. Hogg Professor and Chair 

Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science

The University of Iowa

241 Schaeffer Hall