Gerrit Feenstra ’12

Gerrit Feenstra

Hometown: Queen Creek, AZ
Major: Mathematics

After flip-flopping majors during my first year at SPU, I made a plan to get through the Mathematics program in three years and then get started with an actuarial company once I graduated. My AP statistics teacher had introduced me to the profession when I was in high school.

During my sophomore year, I took an applied statistics course that set me up for taking the first Society of Actuaries exam. My passing grade on the exam, paired with my work and extracurricular history, landed me a solid job as an actuary.

One of my favorite memories from the program was participating in the COMAP Mathematical Contest in Modeling. The contest stretches across a three-day weekend where groups of students spend every moment designing a mathematical solution to a real-world problem. One year, participants were asked to use mathematical modeling and algorithms to design the fastest method of boarding a completely booked airplane. These types of projects were great preparation for having a team-based work environment, just like the one I have now.

As much as I loved the Mathematics Department, getting out of Otto Miller Hall every once in a while was a welcomed opportunity. Dr. Geri Mason in the Economics Department encouraged me toward my goal of becoming an actuary. I learned that she had majored in mathematics as an undergraduate, and since I was an Economics minor, we had a lot in common. For fun, I enjoyed working as the broadcast manager for KSPU, under Liz Gruchala-Gilbert. That job allowed me to get plugged in on campus and gave me some of my best friends.

Now an actuary, I work on many different types of projects that help unique populations gain access to health care. Actuaries don’t just set premiums — we also analyze experience and profit structures to ensure that insurance companies are abiding by federal regulations and providing quality health care management to their enrollees.

My best advice for prospective Mathematics majors is to not doubt yourself when picking your major or looking for a job. Nearly every employer has a need for a Math major. NASA just reopened their astronaut program and a Math major was at the top of the list of recommended requirements. Don’t limit yourself; you can go to space with a math degree!

Paul Mach

Paul Mach ’05

Paul Mach used his Applied Mathematics degree to track and analyze millions of bike rides. Now he’s technical lead for research and development.