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Joe Lee, ASA: From Master’s Student to Actuary

Joe Lee, ASA (’17SPS, Actuarial Science) emigrated from South Korea to the United States in 2001 when he was 10 years old. He attended high school in Long Island and later The City University of New York. His role at ARC Underwriting Partners, Inc. sparked his interest in actuarial science and he decided to apply to Columbia University’s M.S. in Actuarial Science program. After graduation, Lee secured a position as an actuarial associate at Conduent, a world-leading provider of diversified business process services. In his role, he creates risk assessment profiles for individual clients and companies.

Q: How did you first become interested in actuarial science?

A: I was initially interested in actuarial science for its integration of business and math, both of which I enjoyed, and saw myself doing in the future.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies?

A: The program offers academic platforms where the students learn actuarial concepts and theories that apply to the exams in the classroom. Also, it holds professional seminars where professionals from different fields come in to talk about what they do as an actuarial and students see what they will be headed toward in the future and see how the work they are pursuing now academically will some day be professionally applicable in the future. As a recent graduate and someone who started working as an actuarial associate, I can testify to the fact that what we learned in the classroom is indeed applicable to the everyday world and the work life.

Q: What do you love most about Columbia?

A: For me to be part of Columbia is great, not only because the school is very prestigious, but also I am given the opportunity to help future students develop the core skills and academic fundamentals required to be an actuary. I think to be given that opportunity and to be given that title is very rewarding. It is something that I really enjoy doing and see myself become a mentor or a professional colleague to someone who wants to be or is an actuary.

Q: What role has your family played in the pursuit for your master’s degree?

A: I was very grateful to be able to attend Columbia with the support of my family. Not only was I a part of Columbia, my family was a part of Columbia. The best way for me to show my gratefulness was by succeeding in school and at work.

Q: What advice do you have for current and future students?

A: I think it's very important for students to realize there are a lot of opportunities for them, whether they are reachable or not. It's the learning process that comes with every opportunity and every choice that you make. Just being a part of Columbia has shown me I’m a very different person than I was prior to my enrollment here, and I think it was because of the people around me, the choices that I made, and the professional goals that I set for myself. Aside from the academics, I think it's very important for people to weigh the opportunities they have in front of them. The choices you make will definitely shape who you are.