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Samantha Cowen

LACE opportunity gives sophomore a head start on career

by Erik Bacharach

Through the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship program, Samantha Cowen only got to sit down and talk directly with her sponsor, Jay Benet ’74, for a half hour. But the advice, motivation and inspiration she garnered from Benet and everyone else she met at Traveler’s Insurance will remain a priceless asset as she pursues a career as an actuary.

Cowen, a sophomore double-majoring in actuarial science with economics at Harpur College, was encouraged to look into the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship (LACE) program after her Harpur 101 instructor, LACE Coordinator Wendy Neuberger '81, MBA '84, told her about the opportunity. But even after Cowen’s interest drew her in, she did not expected to have the vice president and CFO of Traveler’s Insurance as her mentor.

“I didn’t think anything of it when [Neuberger] told me ‘You have a position with the CFO of Traveler’s.’ I’d never heard of Traveler’s and when I told my dad he almost jumped out of his seat. He told me I’d be crazy if I didn’t do it” Cowen said.

The Westchester, N.Y. native drove an hour and half to Hartford, Conn., on about five different occasions over the summer of 2013 for her externship. Each day provided Cowen with a new experience, as she was able to converse with and shadow a variety of employees from Traveler’s.

“The first three times I went, [Benet] had me meet for an hour with different people in the company,” Cowen said. “It was great because I just sat down with them and they told me about how they got to where they are today and their career paths and what made them want to be actuaries or statisticians.

“I was able to see inside of what an actuary does on a day-to-day basis and see how many different opportunities there are once you get into the actuarial world,” she added.

For Cowen, getting the chance to learn from Benet was an overwhelming experience. While she was intimidated about meeting with him, Cowen said the Binghamton link she shared with Benet made the sit-down incredibly casual.

“He was so down-to-earth,” Cowen said. “For a while, we just talked about Binghamton. He was asking me questions about the buildings because he lived in Newing. He was a really cool guy and so easy to talk to.”

After Benet harkened back to his Binghamton days, he imparted some of what he’s learned since graduating onto Cowen.

“He really stressed how you can start off somewhere and end somewhere completely different,” Cowen said. “You’re the one that makes that change, so you have to know what you want.”

While Cowen entered the externship with a firm idea of what she wanted to do in her remaining time at Binghamton and after school, her desire to work hard to achieve her goal was amplified by the end of it.

Cowen acknowledged that she was ahead of schedule in relation to her peers in terms of becoming an actuary, but after learning so much, so fast through LACE, she realized she has to keep her foot on the gas.

LACE helped light a fire under Cowen, and she hopes more people take advantage of, what she called, “one of the best programs Harpur has to offer.”

“It needs to be advertised as much as it can be through word of mouth,” Cowen said. “People need to know how great this opportunity is. It did so much for me.”

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Last Updated: 12/10/14