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Eric Stewart: How a High School Math Teacher Became a Strategic Leader

Eric Stewart (’15SPS, Actuarial Science) grew up in Louisiana and began his professional career as a high school math teacher. Later he moved to New York City to pursue a job in an applied mathematics field. While working at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons as a Financial Analyst, Stewart began taking actuarial science courses and was immediately drawn to the program. Now he is Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, where he updates actuarial tools and underwriters’ platforms.

What attracted you to the Actuarial Science program at Columbia University?

My interest in applied mathematics and the prestige of the Columbia brand. My first degree was in theoretical math and I wanted to expand on this and challenge myself. I wanted to see how I could apply what I had already learned, and in Columbia’s M.S. in Actuarial Science program, I accomplished this goal. Also, actuarial positions are always ranked in the top-10 of business jobs with a good work-life balance.

I found the part-time format of the program very helpful and accommodating, because it allowed me to continue to work full-time and continue my professional growth. The online courses also allowed me to be at home more with my young children.

What skills did the program help you build and improve?

I was able to improve upon my analytic, programming, and interpersonal skills. The opportunities for networking and working in groups were essential. The program exposed me to an environment of high-performance individuals who empowered me to push myself to build upon existing skills and to learn new ones.

How have these skills helped you succeed at your job?

My analytical skills have improved my ability to advise senior leadership on interpreting data and driving new strategy. My courses in data analytics and modeling gave me a deeper knowledge of programming, and this has proven essential, as I am responsible for improving our underwriters’ platform. As a manager, I draw upon my leadership and interpersonal skills, and these have improved my effectiveness.