Turning Actuarial Opportunity into Success

Gabriel Garcia would never have guessed that an email he received two years ago would have such a huge impact on his career trajectory.

As a sophomore at Dordt University, Garcia received an email from the Society of Actuaries about available academic scholarships, including some from the Organization of Latino Actuaries (OLA). OLA’s mission is to increase the number of Latino actuaries by promoting the profession and providing guidance, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

“At first I thought, ‘What are the odds that I’m going to get an external scholarship like this?’ But I didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity, so I applied.”

Soon after, OLA’s director of early career development reached out to Garcia to get him connected with OLA’s online community of Latino actuaries. “It was amazing to interact with people who had a similar cultural background as I did, who were interested in my desired profession,” he says.

Garcia also received a named scholarship, where recipients are given $5,000 and are guaranteed an actuarial internship. Garcia landed an internship with New York Life in Manhattan, New York. He spent the summer taking the subway to work and experiencing all that the Big Apple has to offer.

“It was great exposure to one of the biggest life insurance companies here in the United States,” he says.

Garcia felt well-prepared for his internship with New York Life, too. “There were interns from schools like Columbia University, Purdue University, and Villanova University, and I felt just as capable and even sometimes more equipped than they were. Dordt might be a small college, but my faculty prepared me well for my work.”

Aside from a named scholarship and his New York Life internship, Garcia has had other impactful experiences with OLA including coaching, conference trips, and networking opportunities. He is currently in a leadership role with OLA where he gets to help with planning an early career symposium that will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“OLA has been a huge blessing to me,” he says. “They’ve opened a ton of doors. I hope that I can serve as a mentor and be able to guide future Latino actuarial candidates in the future.”

Garcia has also had many opportunities during his time at Dordt. He was the president of the Dordt Actuarial Science Club, where he planned several events that brought speakers to campus to help educate students about the field of actuarial science. He played men’s volleyball for several years, and he also worked in residence life. All this, while excelling in an academically challenging major.

As Garcia’s senior year comes to a close, he has much to look forward to. Not only is he getting married in May, but he has an actuarial assistant position lined up with John Hancock in Boston, Massachusetts. And if Garcia wasn’t busy enough, he has already passed three actuarial exams and has plans to take his fourth in mid-April. Most actuarial science majors graduate having only taken two exams.

“Dordt has prepared me well for my actuarial science exams,” he says. “Plus, I’m competitive—I always strive to be better than average. So with my competitive nature and the resources God has given me, I’ve been driven to take more exams than the typical actuarial science student might.”

Actuarial science is a challenging major, says Professor of Mathematics Dr. Tom Clark, and Garcia has shown an incredible amount of dedication to succeeding in this area.

“He’s worked really hard in the classroom, but he’s also worked outside the classroom to study for the actuarial exams. He’s a go-getter who isn’t afraid to take on a challenge and get stuff done. His combination of academic strength, affable personality, and dependability make him successful in whatever he takes on,” says Clark.

Clark calls Garcia “a shining star in our program” and is excited to see what Garcia is capable of in his upcoming career.