Congratulations to The Newest CEBS® Graduates!

New CEBS Graduates

View the full list of 131 new CEBS graduates and see if you recognize any of your colleagues. Be sure to congratulate the graduates you know with a personal message or shout-out on social media using #CEBSGoals. Earning your CEBS designation is a great accomplishment, and it feels even better when it’s recognized by others.

Congrats to the newest CEBS grads!

Valerie B. Actkins, CEBS
Steve K. Alexander, CEBS
Jennifer Alvarez Holmberg, CEBS
Berk Atillasoy, CEBS
Emily L. Bailey, CEBS
Mika Barnett-Ohori, CEBS
Melissa Lee Beber, CEBS
Devon Bellamy, CEBS
Suzanne Berlin, CEBS
Martin Bishop, CEBS
Brian J. Blazek, CEBS
Colleen Block, CEBS
Rebecca Borsuck, CEBS
Carolyn Bourg, CEBS
Shirley A. Bourgeault, CEBS
Shane T. Burke, CEBS
Ashley Burke, CEBS
Kenneth Glenn Cantley, CEBS
Lydia Caraveo, CEBS
Iyaseli Castorena, CEBS
Natalie C. Chandler, CEBS
Matthew Chee, CEBS
Charles Chronis, CEBS
Jordan Cohen, CEBS
Patricia Coulton, CEBS
Kevin B. Davis, CEBS
Evgeniia Davis, CEBS
Sampath Deva, CEBS
Joshua Discher, CEBS
Huyen Do, CEBS
Sherrie S. Edwards, CEBS
Mary Fecko, CEBS
Andrew M. Fiederlein, CEBS
Sharon K. Foster, CEBS
Kate L. Gaal , CEBS
Viktoria Garber, CEBS
Mary Garvey, CEBS
Isabel Gomez, CEBS
Bradley Hanovich, CEBS
Trever Hansen, CEBS
Monica Harding, CEBS
Susan Hargrove, CEBS
Jill E. Hays, CEBS
Karen Hedrick, CEBS
Kara Hickie, CEBS
Linda R. Hoffman, CEBS
Sharie Hyder, CEBS
Jamee Johnson, CEBS
Michelle Kazazic, CEBS
Brandon M. Kenish, CEBS
Joseph F. Kern, CEBS
Bo Kyung Kim, CEBS
Roxanne E. Kolev, CEBS
Rebecca Krell, CEBS
Collin J. Krug, CEBS
Ryan Kuryla, CEBS
Sylvia Kwong, CEBS
Kyle T. Lagonegro, CEBS
Robert J. Laino, CEBS
Michelle Landrum, CEBS
Bryon Langenfeld, CEBS
Logan Larson, CEBS
Kimberly L. Lawrence, CEBS
Caitlin Leidy, CEBS
Jessica A. Levy, CEBS
Mike Litchenstein, CEBS
Madison Luchi, CEBS
Kari Luehmann, CEBS
Katy Macik, CEBS
Erika MacLaren, CEBS
Daniel Maloney, CEBS
Matthew R. Manzo, CEBS
Francene A. Marra, CEBS
Meredith Matisoff, CEBS
Reena T. Medina, CEBS
Mike Melles, CEBS
Jim Mendoza, CEBS
Amy Moreno, CEBS
Leeann Murphy, CEBS
Taylor Nervo, CEBS
Gayla E. Nesbitt, CEBS
Jamie Kirby Norton, CEBS
Amy Notermann, CEBS
Emily Oglesby, CEBS
Sarah A. Padgett, CEBS
Dionisia Papafote, CEBS
Andrea Paquin, CEBS
Joseph S. Park, CEBS
Molly Paskar, CEBS
Rachel Elaine Phipps, CEBS
Brett A. Pinson, CEBS
Jennifer Poland, CEBS
Laurie Ragusa, CEBS
Jessica Rallo, CEBS
David M. Ray, CEBS
Pamela Reed, CEBS
Brian D. Rhame, CEBS
Joanne M. Rich, CEBS
Lorie C. Robertson, CEBS
Kelly Rossi, CEBS
Ann Roth, CEBS
Matthew Sanborn, CEBS
James C. Scarborough, CEBS
Karla L. Schaefer, CEBS
Rita Shah, CEBS
Amina Shaiza, CEBS
Sudha Smith , CEBS
Katherine Starr, CEBS
Donna Stenz, CEBS
Kimberly Stewart, CEBS
Joe Struck, CEBS
Toni Marie Sutliff, CEBS
Destiny D. Talley, CEBS
Somer Taylor, CEBS
Chalon M. Temple, CEBS
Crystal G. Thomas, CEBS
Nadia X. Traian, CEBS
Dawn M. Trumps, CEBS
Sharon A. Tylus, CEBS
Robert A. Van Schie, CEBS
Christine Vink, CEBS
Christian N. Walser, CEBS
Teri S. Westra, CEBS
Michael Wilcher, CEBS
Lauren Nicole Wiley, CEBS
Alesha Wilhite, CEBS
Andrew Willis, CEBS
Kathryn M. Winkler, CEBS
Lauren Zastrow, CEBS
Jill A. Ziegelbauer, CEBS

Now picture yourself on this list! Continue on your journey to earning your CEBS designation.

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey?  Whether you’re about to take your first step or you’re getting close to reaching your designation, we’re here to help!  Give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3 or e-mail cebs@ifebp.org.

Congratulations to The Newest CEBS® Graduates!

New CEBS Graduates

View the full list of 58 new CEBS graduates and see if you recognize any of your colleagues. Be sure to congratulate the graduates you know with a personal message or shout-out on social media using #CEBSGoals. Earning your CEBS designation is a great accomplishment, and it feels even better when it’s recognized by others.

Congrats to the newest CEBS grads!

Fisayo Abiodun Akinpelu, CEBS
Michelle Bailie, CEBS
Curtis Blanchard, CEBS
Prisha Burrut, CEBS
Diane Carvalho, CEBS
Vivek Chaudhary, CEBS
Théodore J.P. Deezar, CEBS
Emma Dewulf, CEBS
Jacqueline Dizenhouse, CEBS
Maria Eliopoulos, CEBS
Christopher Fedak, CEBS
Angela Ficken, CEBS
Nicolette Fojcik, CEBS
Patricia Fong, CEBS
James J. Fox, CEBS
Erin Greenwood, CEBS
David Griffiths, CEBS
Jennifer Hart, CEBS
Melody Helleouet, CEBS
Kara Henry, CEBS
Alicia Hesch, CEBS
Christine Huynh, CEBS
Amy Kerr, CEBS
Louise King, CEBS
Jennifer Kirby, CEBS
Lisa A. Knight, CEBS
Lily Lee, CEBS
Lani Lehtonen, CEBS
Lisa Macri, CEBS
Kyle Marryatt, CEBS
Alexander Mazzone, CEBS
Jamie Irene McGovern, CEBS
Angela McKay, CEBS
Shawna L. McLean, CEBS
Dayna McMillan, CEBS
Lana D. Miller Blackwell, CEBS
Leonardo Montecalvo, CEBS
Aisha Muneer, CEBS
Laura M. Nicholson, CEBS
Elizabeth Obianwuna, CEBS
Osasuyi Sophia Ogbeifun , CEBS
Melissa Pasquarelli, CEBS
Edgardo Paz Briceno, CEBS
Teresa C. Pham, CEBS
Ashley Porlier, CEBS
Matthew Porter, CEBS
Krishnaa Ramesh, CEBS
Jacquelyn Rose, CEBS
Allison Shaw, CEBS
Gaurav Singh, CEBS
Alison M. Smiley, CEBS
Allison Speal, CEBS
Amy Sturgeon, CEBS
Merrily Varughese, CEBS
Madeline Webb, CEBS
Paula Wolownik, CEBS
Kathleen Wong, CEBS
Viktor Zivojinovic, CEBS

Now picture yourself on this list! Continue on your journey to earning your CEBS designation.

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey?  Whether you’re about to take your first step or you’re getting close to reaching your designation, we’re here to help!  Give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3 or e-mail cebs@ifebp.org.

7 Studying Tips for a CEBS Exam

Studying Tips for a CEBS Exam

I’m not the analytical type. I thrive on sensory learning cues—Smells, textures and colors inform my decision on how much oregano to add to my marinara sauce, not a measuring spoon. Much to my chagrin, the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist® (CEBS®) study guides did not come in a scratch-and-sniff option. As I was negotiating my way through assignments such as Designing Cost-Effective Health Provider Networks and Active and Passive Investment Strategies, I had to dig deep. 

Throughout the course, I dedicated several hours each Sunday afternoon to reading the assignments and reviewing the study guide questions. Once I got through all the assignments, about two weeks before my testing date, I took the practice exam.

CEBS Study Partner
Study Partner:
Greta James Van Wonderpants

I never tested well on that first run, but that didn’t bother me. The practice exam would queue up how I did on each assignment, and there was always a pattern—There were a few assignments that I performed spectacularly bad. I would go back and read those pages, often explaining the concept out loud to my faithful study partner, Greta James Van Wonderpants. (She totally got it.) Then I’d take the exam again. I’d usually do much better the second time, but I would still trip on the more abstract concepts. These I would write out in longhand. The physical act of writing helped cement the correct answers in my mind.

Everyone studies differently, so I asked a few of my peers who recently earned their CEBS designation what their studying tricks were. Here’s what they had to say, along with their practical study tips and that little extra boost that helped to ease their testing jitters.

Tip #1: Take the Practice Exam Repeatedly Until You Nail It . . .

“Mine was taking and retaking the tests and quizzes until I knew why the right answer was right and why the wrong answers were wrong. I found that although most questions as they appeared in the practice test were not on the final exam, the information included in the questions and answers (even the wrong ones) often appeared on the final exam. I didn’t take the test until I could get a 98-100% on the practice exams and quizzes.” — Teri Dougherty, CEBS

Tip #2: . . . or Limit How Often You Take the Practice Exam

“I usually only took the practice exam twice. One time a month before to gauge where I was and then once the week before I was scheduled to test. Taking it too many times almost burned me on the first exam because I memorized the test questions and overlooked what wasn’t on the practice exam.” — Rose Plewa, CEBS

“I’d wait until about two days before the test to take the practice exam. And then on the day before the test, I would go over the answers from the practice exam, particularly looking at the ones I got wrong, and review them in connection with the information referenced in the binder and book. I found this to be helpful because it put the questions into context as well as allowed me a chance to review more of the information than just what was asked on the practice exam.” — Adam Abelson, CEBS 

Tip #3: If You Got It Wrong, Write It Down

“I would go through the exam once and write down everything I got wrong and what the correct answer was. Then, I would study off of that and go through the exam a few more times.” — Amanda Wilke, CEBS

“I make a ‘cheat sheet’ with the two or three Key Terms/Concepts that are the most challenging for me from each module. I add a brief definition in my own words and any important information related to the term. I refer to this sheet over and over again to get ready for my exam.” — Christine Vazquez, CEBS

“I would lay my written-out concepts (those that I struggled with) on the passenger seat of my car for the drive to Prometric, so I could grab it at a red light and review if I found myself second guessing something!” — Sandy Tellefson, CEBS

Tip #4: Find a Good Study Partner, Even if They Think You’re Silly:

“My last-minute cramming techniques included having my husband read my flash cards out loud. He had no clue what they meant (he swore he read the same thing 5 times in a row), but it was helpful for me to hear him read the answers. I could then “hear” him during the exam in Prometric.

I’d also read the study guide out loud to my youngest daughter. She would want to have mom snuggle time (she was 4-5 at the time of my last exams) and since she is my last kid, I didn’t want to miss out on that time. So she got bed-time stories about defined contribution plans and target date funds. Again, the auditory learning helped me retain the information. And, I got fun memories of raspberry kisses and ‘momma you so silly’ during the exam.” — Jennifer Mathe, CEBS

Tip #5: Review and Refresh  . . .

“For my cramming technique, I used the two days (well, nights) before the exam to divide the study materials in half. I would reread the first half of assignments on the first day and the second half of assignments on the second day. If I knew an assignment cold, I would read it quickly. If an assignment gave me trouble, I would slow it down and focus on trickier concepts. My thought process was to refresh all of the terms in my mind right before the exam, figuring that exam questions might trigger my memory just enough to score an extra correct answer or two.” — Robbie Hartman, CEBS

Tip #6 . . . . Or Put the Books Away and Open a Nice Pinot

“Study until the afternoon before the exam. Then stop and put everything away. By then you either know it or you don’t and another half day won’t make a difference. Have a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea; go to bed early and rest your mind.” — Rose Plewa, CEBS

Tip #7:  Know That You’ve Got This

“I did a lot of breath work – before studying, during when I felt frustrated or anxious, and before I entered the testing center. Inhale confidence, exhale anxiety and doubt!” — Sandy Tellefson, CEBS

“To get into the testing mindset, I visualize myself passing the exam and I tell myself positive affirmations.  I assure myself that I know the content and that I’m mentally prepared to pass the test.” — Christine Vazquez, CEBS

“I would arrive early so that I could step into the restroom, take some deep breaths and tell myself, ‘I studied hard. I put in the work. I got this.’ It worked for the first exam, and this became my go-to routine for all five.” — Robbie Hartman, CEBS

CEBS Testing Day Playlist Suggestions:

Many CEBSers say they found themselves seeking a certain melody on the drive to the testing center.

“Foo Fighters and Linkin Park would dominate my playlist on my drive to Prometric. Alice Merton’s No Roots dominated GBA/RPA 3, and when I hear that song now I get a smile because that was my last exam to earn the CEBS.” — Jennifer Mathe, CEBS

“On the way to Prometric for the first exam, I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack. It felt like a good, upbeat way to get my brain to wakey-wakey and focus on something other than the exam.” — Robbie Hartman, CEBS

“Every time I tested in December, I would listen to Christmas music on the way to Prometric. And each time it happened that Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which is my favorite song, came on. And I just knew it would be good luck, and it was.” — Rose Plewa, CEBS


Stacy Van Alstyne, CEBS
Communications Director at the International Foundation

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey?  Whether you’re about to take your first step or you’re getting close to reaching your designation, we’re here to help!  Give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3 or e-mail cebs@ifebp.org.

Explore a Career in Employee Benefits

Explore a Career in Employee Benefits

Some children dream of becoming a doctor or firefighter when they grow up. Others know by the time they are in high school they are headed for a career in teaching or engineering. However, have you ever heard a young person say they want to grow up to be an employee benefits specialist or a retirement plans advisor? Neither have we!

These less well-known, yet very rewarding jobs are common in the employee benefits industry. These types of employee benefits careers are predicted to have “average” to “much faster than average” job growth from 2018-2028, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau cited increasingly complex employment laws and health care coverage options as reasons for the growth in these careers. The issues of health benefits and retirement readiness affect everyone and are in the news almost daily. Professionals in this industry do the very important work of providing health care and retirement benefits for employees and their families to support their financial, physical and emotional well-being. They are in valuable positions to help people obtain the resources and services they need.

Individuals who end up working in employee benefits come from a variety of backgrounds such as human resources, finance, law, health care, actuarial science, risk management and data analytics.

Many will say they “fell” into benefits without much specialized education or training in this area. They learned on the job and discovered they love being in a role that gives them the opportunity to impact the lives of their colleagues and clients each day. They celebrate the successes and embrace the challenges and complexities that come with this work.

However, they need additional knowledge and expertise to be successful. How do they obtain this? They look to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans for a variety of educational and research resources in employee benefits, compensation and financial literacy. Specifically, the International Foundation partners with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Dalhousie University in Canada to offer the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist®/CEBS® program, which is recognized as the gold standard for employee benefits education. The CEBS designation provides professionals with the specialized knowledge and expertise in both health care strategy and retirement plan funding to think strategically and make decisions confidently for their organization and clients.

There are many components to employee benefits programs, which means a variety of career opportunities. Here are some of the positions in this field experiencing above-average job growth, with general information about their roles/responsibilities.

  • Actuary
    Analyze the financial costs of risk, uncertainty and loss for an organization.
  • Benefits Specialist
    Plan, develop and oversee an organization’s benefits programs.
  • Communications Strategist
    Disseminate information and coordinate educational events related to health care, retirement and workplace wellness plans.
  • Compliance Attorney
    Ensure the organization is meeting all the regulatory and compliance requirements of its benefit plans.
  • Data Analytics Specialist
    Analyze reports on the usage of health care services to determine areas with the largest need for intervention and education.
  • Director, Total Rewards
    Coordinate the team of benefits associates, and oversee the full benefits and compensation package offered to employees.
  • Financial Advisor
    Help individuals manage their finances and plan for their financial future.
  • Global Benefits Analyst
    Analyze and harmonize benefits for employees working for a multinational corporation.
  • Health Services Financial Manager
    Provide oversight on the costs of benefit plans and the impact on the organization’s bottom line.
  • Human Resources Manager
    Plan, direct and coordinate the strategic human capital and administrative functions of an organization.
  • Insurance Representative
    Sell insurance products and provide customer service.

Is a Career in Employee Benefits for You?

Do any of these jobs sound interesting? Go to JobsInBenefits to check out the opportunities!


Sandy Tellefson, CEBS
Manager, Education Services at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans