The First

by minton on February 21, 2019

Emma Blair will become Roanoke College’s first graduate in actuarial science on May 4, 2019. From which it logically follows that Emma is our first triple major in actuarial science, economics, and Spanish. With a math minor. And two years on the lacrosse team. And ballet. With a grade average that rounds to 4.0.

Being first is not new to Emma. She is the oldest of Tommy and Kim Blair’s five children. Which means that Roanoke College is not new to Emma, either. Tommy and Kim are both RC grads and have held important administrative positions here. Starting at age 3, Emma spent time before pre-school at Roselawn with her Dad (Director of Financial Aid) and at Fowler House with her Mom (in Development at the time), then attended numerous basketball and lacrosse camps and chased siblings around at RC events.

Being a member of the Roanoke College family is part of why Emma has an actuarial science major. Actuarial science is a blend of statistics, economics, business, and mathematics that is the “science of risk analysis” used by insurance companies and other industries. This is the second year that a degree in actuarial science has been available at Roanoke College, so it is noteworthy that anyone could complete this demanding major so quickly. How did Emma do it? She found out about the major in a conversation with Registrar Leah Russell as the major was being developed, and got her courses lined up.

Having some inside information did not make the journey easy. Emma had to take ACSI 301, the most difficult course in the major, as an independent study, working with a professor who was learning the material at the same time. Do not try this at home! This illustrates a common pattern in Emma’s time at RC: uncovering a new interest, making the choices needed to free up time for the new interest, and then putting in the hard work to succeed.

Her first two years featured lacrosse and a comprehensive search for the right majors. She played important minutes as a freshman and sophomore in goal for Coach Schwartz. The time and energy requirements in lacrosse and multiple majors led to dropping the Honors Program, which she enjoyed for its challenging discussions. After two years, Emma traded goalkeeping for coaching. She coached the Salem High School girls lacrosse team, featuring her sister Lilly. The team made it to the state finals for the first time in school history, losing by a single goal in an exciting game in Salem. Working with the girls helped Emma “fall in love with the sport again.” She also completed an independent study analyzing the effects of the newly introduced shot clock in women’s lacrosse.

As you might expect, Emma’s future is full of outstanding options. She is a semifinalist for a Fulbright scholarship. If selected, she will be teaching English in Spain, preferably in a rural region. Plan B is the Mercatus Fellowship program in economics at George Mason University. And an upcoming marriage to Tyler Fedison, a recent VMI graduate. She wants to coach young girls in lacrosse and basketball on the side.

When Emma learned that she had been named Senior Scholar in actuarial science, she laughed and asked how many other seniors were eligible. Regardless, she has set the bar very high for future majors. Emma’s advice to entering students is to dive in, try out several majors, get to know your professors well, and take advantage of what Roanoke College has to offer. She has clearly done all of this and more, and that is why she is first!