Caryn Carmean

Caryn Carmean

Employment and education:

Caryn is assistant VP, reserving actuary for Horace Mann Insurance Company (Springfield). She is also an adjunct math instructor at LLCC. After earning her Associate in Arts from LLCC, Caryn continued onto University of Illinois-Springfield where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in math/statistics. She also obtained her associate credential from the Casualty Actuarial Society.

How has Lincoln Land Community College impacted your life?

It gave me a chance at a better life. Without the community college experience and all the developmental educational opportunities, I would not have been able to establish the foundation needed to graduate with a major in mathematics and would not have had been able to achieve the goal of becoming an actuary.

What have been some obstacles you have had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and/or career goals?

I grew up in a single parent household.  I started my secondary education at San Bernardino High School in San Bernardino, California. It was a rough high school to say the least. It was in a poor neighborhood and had a lot of gang activity. At the time, (late 70s) it had one of the highest high school dropout rates per capita in the country.  Survival, not education, was the goal. Class sizes were large and attendance was not enforced. I rarely went to class, and was on the track of dropping out of high school myself. My mother, who has a Ph.D. in education, was at her wits end. She reached out to the high school and was appalled by the attitude of the high school administrators. Their advice was to let her drop out. It’s impossible to teach those who don’t want to be here. So she reached out to my absent father and arranged for me to go live with him in Auburn, Illinois. With a small class size, teachers who cared, and an attendance policy where they actually reported back to parents, I somehow graduated from high school.

I bounced around for a while from job to job before deciding to go to college. I took the math placement test, and no surprise, I needed to be placed in Mat 81 – a developmental math course. It is a path that takes several math classes before getting to college level mathematics that actually count towards a degree. I worked part-time at Horace Mann Insurance Company and needed a tutor. So an actuary tutored me. While searching for careers, the actuarial career was being written about for being an excellent career. My tutor, who was an actuary, was encouraging, but others weren’t. After all, it would take bachelors with a major in mathematics, and after several math classes, I was still in developmental math. So I heard a lot of “you know you have to be really smart to do that.”

My professors at LLCC were also encouraging. I had a professor who talked about building a math foundation. Like any foundation, it must be strong. I also had a professor who pointed out that obtaining a degree is a journey, not a race. There is a finish line, but you can work at your own pace to obtain the goals.

Ultimately, I graduated from LLCC and attended UIS, with a math major. I pursued a career in actuarial science and obtained my associate credential from the Casualty Actuarial Society.  To obtain this creditable, you must pass a series of tests, most of which make you demonstrate the mastery of higher mathematics often taught at graduate level classes. So maybe I am smart after all.

Now my life has gone full circle. I now adjunct teach at LLCC. My class this semester is Mat 81. I have used the lecture by my past instructors of building a strong foundation. I have shared my story with my students in hopes that they will aim high.

What is your greatest accomplishment(s)?

  1. Obtaining a BA in mathematics, when I started my college career in developmental math!
  2. Obtaining the credential of actuary
  3. Being named assistant vice president at a well respected insurance company
  4. Being given the opportunity to adjunct teach the classes I started my college career with at the institution that made it possible.

Was there a professor, advisor, staff member or fellow student who made an impression on you or helped you when you were here at LLCC?

Yes many. They were encourage and excited about their subjects. They discussed the dedication needed for college level classes, in particular math and science. I repeat sound bites from their lectures in my classes – such as building a solid foundation for mathematics, and life is a math problem. I have a joke in my class – that no one can say “I’m not a math person.” Of course the student do just to hear me lecture them about how every day life takes math.

Who or what has served as a source of inspiration for you?

The beginning inspiration was to try to find a job other than McDonald’s. Many people have impacted my life, most of which, I don’t remember their names. At the time, I didn’t realize the huge impact my early professors on my overall development – educationally and emotionally.

What advice do you have for current or future LLCC students?

Aim high! Tailor your college experience to your wants, needs and goals. College is not a race, it’s a journey. Nothing is more rewarding than setting goals high, working hard and then accomplishing them.