Smeal spring 2020 risk management student marshal says balance is key

May 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Grace McStravock humbly claims that she was never the smartest one in the room during her academic career. The fact that she attained a 3.98 GPA in actuarial science may lead some to raise their eyebrows at that assertion.

McStravock, who will graduate Saturday, May 9 with a degree in actuarial science and minors in mathematics and statistics, has been selected as Smeal’s spring 2020 risk management student marshal.

“I was a little surprised. I left my stress about grades in high school, realizing as a Smeal student that relationships and experiences matter as much as academics. While my grades have remained high, I’m never the smartest one in the room at Penn State. That’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

“I’ve learned from professors and peers as much outside the classroom as in it. Those experiences, while valuable, are not typically rewarded with an honor like being chosen as a student marshal.”

McStravock’s introduction to actuarial science hinged on a chance encounter in the Business Building during high school.

“I decided on actuarial science because I was interested in math and healthcare. I was first introduced to actuarial science when I happened to meet Ron Gebhardtsbauer (the former head of the Actuarial Science Program) in the Atrium at a Penn State Spend a Summer Day event between my sophomore and junior years of high school,” she recalled.

“He asked me if I liked math, and steered me away from the accounting table. Within the first few weeks of school freshman year, I reintroduced myself to Ron, who invited me to attend his thesis class. That’s how I learned all the interesting things actuaries can get involved with, and I was sold.”

From there, McStravock’s academic and extracurricular career took off. She was a Schreyer Scholar and part of the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program. She earned the President Sparks Award, the Evan Pugh Scholar Award, and a Smeal Scholarship Award. She ran on the club cross country team, of which she was a team captain during her sophomore year, was president of the Actuarial Science Club, and was Sapphire’s business logistics overall in 2019.

Steve Putterman, professor of practice in risk management, noticed an interesting trait of McStravock’s.

“Grace is a top actuarial science student with boundless energy. I like to say that Grace never met a project that she didn’t want to lead,” he said. “A great example of her unbridled enthusiasm was a year ago when she leapt at the chance to dance in THON at the last minute with no preparation. And, of course, she was great!”

Learning how to juggle the incredible demands of her major with her extracurricular responsibilities led to some interesting personal choices.

“Challenges of balance definitely came up from time to time. Sophomore year when I was training for my first marathon, I became very aware of how much more time for running and sleep I needed. That resulted in adjustments to how I managed my time,” McStravock said.

“Ultimately, I think my key to balance has been to prioritize people (friendships, mentorship, relationships) first, followed by things that keep me sane (running, eating good food, sleeping), then academics, then everything else.”

She related an occasion when she and her fellow actuarial science students were at a low ebb and received an unexpected jolt of motivation.

“Ron Gebhardtsbauer box-jumped onto a table when we looked sad in one of our actuarial classes and told us ‘You will be the masters of the universe!’” she said. “Ron cares about his students more than anything. It’s awesome to see someone with that kind of passion at a university level, and we all love him for it.”

Her love for actuarial science has led her to a full-time job with Cigna. She will be moving to Denver with her puppy in July to start her professional career.

“No one in Smeal succeeds entirely on their own,” she said.  Helping one another to be the best we can be makes Smeal stand out – there isn’t a cutthroat mentality that is present in other business schools. We can all succeed.”

  • A photo of Grace McStravock

    Grace McStravock

    IMAGE: Provided

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 06, 2020