Katherine Facenda '23: The Smile Architect
Katherine’s foray into biology might seem an unlikely one for a future dentist.
Matt understands that inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. He knew he was good at math, and developed an interest in the economy during a high school AP government course, but it wasn’t until the jaguar in Disney’s Zootopia declared he was going to “be an actuary” that Matt discovered his perfect career path.
As a mathematics and economics double major with a concentration in statistics, he found actuarial work of calculating the financial consequences of risk for companies right in line with his interests. He considers math his “first major,” and began to see the subject in a new light when taking Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Benjamin Allen’s “Introduction to Proofs” course. “That’s when I knew math at a higher level was different,” he said. “It’s not just pure computational work, it requires a lot of creative thinking.”
So, when a spot on Dr. Allen’s and Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Christine Sample’s research team opened up, Matt jumped at the opportunity. The research project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, studied the rate of evolution in spatially structured populations using evolutionary graph theory.
“Science was never an interest of mine, I’ve always leaned toward big business,” he said. “It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but it was a great learning experience.”
In addition to honing invaluable research skills, Matt and the team were invited to present at a conference for the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the fall of 2019, and also saw their work on evolutionary dynamics and mathematical biology published in PLOS Computational Biology in February 2021.
With the goal of working as a life or health insurance actuary, Matt began applying for internships. He landed a role at Willis Towers Watson’s Boston office, but with their retirement consulting team. Despite never considering analyzing retirement plans, he fell in love with the work. In the time since his internship ended, Matt passed his actuary exam and was offered (and accepted) a post-graduation position as a retirement actuarial analyst in Willis Towers Watson’s Washington, D.C. office, where he’ll help corporations balance providing competitive retirement programs while managing cost and risk to the company.
For Matt, the position is literally close to home. A native of the Virginia/D.C. area, Matt knew he wanted to attend a small school in a big city. Emmanuel already “checked a lot of boxes” for him, but when he traveled to the region to tour campuses, one major thing set Emmanuel apart from other small, urban colleges. “I fell in love with the city, but also the fact that Emmanuel had its own campus,” he said. “Most other urban colleges were just a few buildings.”
While already considering Emmanuel, he was recruited for the soccer team, and it felt “meant to be.” After playing for two seasons for the Saints, injuries ended his college playing career, but he still considers the sport a huge part of his life, and where he met some of his best friends at Emmanuel.
Another cocurricular activity ended up giving Matt a huge boost when it came to landing his post-graduation job. As an Admissions Ambassador, he thought giving tours would just be a fun thing to do, but it turned out to be a great resume builder.
“It was really helpful to have this experience in the interview process,” he said. “Actuarial work is really consulting work, so they appreciated that I have years of public speaking in my background. It all came full circle.”
Emmanuel is a place where students broaden their sense of what’s possible and prepare for inspiring careers in an ever-changing world. Be here.