Noah Fitzgerald is a junior at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, where he is majoring in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial science. Noah currently serves as a resident assistant on campus, and he is also working this summer as an actuarial intern for the firm Hooker & Holcombe in Bloomfield, Connecticut. We spoke with Noah in July 2020.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I enjoy bowling. My high school had a bowling club. I joined because a few of my friends were on the team, and then I got really into it. I was previously in a summer bowling league, which was a great experience. I was the youngest in the league by a good ten years, but it was still nice to interact with everybody. I enjoy the atmosphere and the culture of the bowling league, so I definitely plan on joining another one in the future.
I also enjoy collecting and reselling sneakers. Ever since I was younger, I always enjoyed sneakers and their different silhouettes. I like to buy sneakers and resell them to make a little bit of profit, and I use that profit toward the pairs that I personally keep. It’s a nice cycle that I got into when I was in high school as well.
What has your experience at the University of Saint Joseph been like?
My experience in my first two years at the University of Saint Joseph has been amazing. The first day that I stepped on campus, I could see that it was where I belong. It was such a welcoming environment, not only from the staff or the professors but also from the incoming students. It was a close-knit community from day one. I really enjoyed that because I came from a smaller high school. My graduating class only had 85 students, so it was nice to keep the small environment with my college experience.
My experience in my first two years at the University of Saint Joseph has been amazing. The first day that I stepped on campus, I could see that it was where I belong.
I like how the smaller classes allow you to have more of a personal connection with the professors. I was part of the first coed class at the University of Saint Joseph, which was also unique because prior to that it was an all-women school. Being part of the first coed class opened up unique opportunities, one being that I was selected as a resident assistant as a freshman, which doesn’t usually happen often at other universities. The resident assistant position changed my college career in ways that I couldn’t have ever imagined. I knew that it would help build my leadership and communications skills, but I ended up becoming so close with my residents that they encouraged me to become the manager of the soccer team because a lot of them were on the team. After one practice as the manager, by the end of the practice, I was actually officially on the roster as a player.
I only played one year of soccer before college. I played football in high school. But a lot of the guys wanted me to be a part of the team. It’s a Division III school, so it’s not as competitive as D1, but it’s still an NCAA varsity sport, so there’s still that competitive side to it. It was a great opportunity that arose from building such a strong rapport with the residents on my floor, and I didn’t take it for granted. I came to play every day, and I really enjoyed the season.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose the University of Saint Joseph?
I knew that I wanted to stay within an hour or two of home. I was strongly considering Western New England University and Saint John’s University. My sister recently graduated from Saint John’s, so I felt close to Saint John’s because I’ve been there multiple times to visit her at events. But ultimately, I chose the University of Saint Joseph because of the atmosphere on campus. I took a brief one-hour tour, and by the time I was done with the campus tour, I was already ready to put my deposit down. It was so amazing, and the tour definitely played a big part in my decision.
I had a different outlook on the university after my tour. It was so significant in my decision that when I arrived on campus, I reached out to the Admissions Department seeking a job. I was so inspired by the tour that I wanted to inspire future students who would tour the university. Now I work in the admissions office as an ambassador, and I give tours to prospective students who are visiting the campus. I’ve been involved in a lot of different aspects of campus. My goal is to shed light on all the different sides of USJ when I’m giving a tour because I’ve been able to experience all of them, whether it’s the athletics, the residential life, or student affairs.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I’ve always enjoyed mathematics more than any other subject throughout all my years of school, and I didn’t see myself pursuing a career in teaching. I was doing some research, and a family friend introduced the idea of being an actuary, so I narrowed down my research and looked into the profession. The main thing that I found that interested me was the exam process. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person, so I enjoyed the idea that you can take these exams to further your career.
When I began to look at different universities and attend their career fairs, I would always go right to the actuarial science table to gain information and insight from the university and their programs. This led to doing even more research on my own, and then by the time I was going into my senior year of high school, I didn’t know what university I was going to attend, but I knew that I was set on majoring in actuarial science or math with a concentration in actuarial science, and I haven’t looked back since.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
My experience with the actuarial science program at the University of Saint Joseph has been one of a kind. There are only five total students with an actuarial science concentration, and three of them are rising sophomores. In my freshman year, I was the only person in my year with an actuarial concentration, and there was only one other person in the entire university with the concentration. It’s definitely a tight-knit community at the University of Saint Joseph.
The program here covers the materials for the first two actuarial exams, as well as additional statistics, accounting, and finance courses to cover all three VEE credits. It’s nice that the built-in coursework is preparing you to take those first few exams and get those credits out of the way.
Dr. Ekaterina Lioutikova is the head of the actuarial program, and she does everything that she can to find opportunities for her students. Personally, with Dr. Lioutikova’s help, I was accepted to attend the Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services (CT IFS) Actuarial Boot Camp. The boot camp was hosted at Lincoln Financial Group in Hartford, and it was a weeklong experience that covered everything about being an actuary, from networking to exams and soft skills required for the career. We even went over a decent amount of the syllabus for Exam P. Before this boot camp experience, I already knew that I wanted to be an actuary, but by the end of the week, it definitely solidified that this is the career that I intend to pursue. I appreciated the help of Dr. Lioutikova shedding light on the boot camp and encouraging me to apply for it. She does whatever she can to look out for her students, and that has definitely been the biggest benefit of going to a smaller school and having a smaller program.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
There were two classes that were particularly interesting to me. The first one was my discrete mathematics class. In high school, I never took any kind of probability or logic class, so it was interesting to learn this side of math, dealing with set theories and probability. I’m currently studying for Exam P, so another reason this has been my favorite class is it was an introduction to the material that’s covered in the Exam P syllabus. It was definitely nice to know that the hard work that I was putting into the course correlates with the exam process.
Another one of my favorite classes was Data Analysis with R. This course was an introduction to coding using R. I enjoyed learning more about coding, and I know that a lot of actuaries use the R language on a day-to-day basis, so being able to work hands-on, using the language on different assignments, was really interesting. The data manipulation portion of that class was definitely the most interesting to me because a lot of our projects focused on fixing data that was previously input incorrectly. Analyzing the data that’s incorrect and figuring out how to alter it or manipulate it and make the necessary changes for the code to run properly was a fun way to problem-solve and use the information that we used in prior chapters.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
You don’t need a master’s degree if you want to be an actuary. You’re able to start taking exams while you’re in college and then continue to take them when you’re employed. The main thing that stuck out to me about the exam process is the study programs that a lot of employers offer. I thought it was very interesting, and even motivating, that your employer will pay for you to study for the exams and even cover the exam fees. Right now, I’m motivated by seeing other people around the same year in college as me passing the exams, but I feel like the study programs from the different employers offer even further motivation.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you had known ahead of time?
The most challenging part is the time commitment for the actuarial exams. They recommend about 300 hours of studying for each exam. Being a student-athlete with multiple jobs takes up a lot of my time. I’ve personally had to make a lot of sacrifices to be able to study efficiently. I don’t regret it. I enjoy studying, and there is still time to do fun stuff, although you may not be able to do it as often for the time being. It definitely is worth it, and I would not change it if I could go back.
I do wish I had known earlier about all the resources that are available because I just started studying for my first exam last year as a sophomore. I could have started self-studying earlier in my college career, or been introduced to the different resources, such as Coaching Actuaries, The Infinite Actuary, and other study programs.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I’m currently interning remotely, due to the pandemic, at Hooker & Holcombe in Bloomfield, Connecticut. I’m interning in the Actuarial Service Department, so I work on retirement consulting. My experience thus far has been very informative. I’ve completed multiple projects dealing with data compilation, creating graphs and charts. Currently, I’m working on a number of government filings for different companies and clients. These projects have helped me gain knowledge on the retirement and pension side of being an actuary and become more familiar with the day-to-day work of a consulting actuary.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
As I mentioned before, I’m currently studying for Exam P. By the time I graduate, my goal is to pass all three of the preliminary exams and then hopefully enter an entry-level position right out of college. Post-graduation, I plan to continue taking exams and obtain either my ASA or ACAS credential and become a fellow in that society, depending on which path I pursue.
One of my main goals is to be a mentor. Currently, I have a great mentor who’s an actuary and helps me tremendously through my actuarial journey. But I don’t want to limit myself to just mentoring aspiring actuaries. I want to have a positive impact on all young students, whether or not they want to be an actuary, no matter what their future goals are. I’ve had a number of mentors in my life, and I saw how beneficial it has been to have those types of people in my life, so I want to be able to help as many young students as I can and make that positive impact on their lives.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Do as much research as possible and start studying for exams as soon as possible. There are a lot of programs and resources online where you can be introduced to the material. Although having a course in college helps, you can never start too soon. Starting to get familiar with the wording on the syllabus or starting to study for the specific exams would be a good idea. Also, try to get in touch with current actuaries or professors at your university. The actuary community is very tight-knit, so if you get discouraged throughout the journey, it could be beneficial to hear someone else’s experience.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
I recommend browsing on Actuarial Outpost and the actuary subreddit on Reddit. There are thousands of posts on everything from exams and experiences to funny stories. It’s a good resource to ask questions and interact with other people in the industry. Another good resource is BeAnActuary.org. I did the majority of my research pre-college on this website, and it helped me gain a lot of knowledge on the industry, the exam process, VEE credits, and everything that goes along with becoming an actuary.
» If you liked Noah’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.