Heather Palmer’s interest in math evolved from her major in actuarial science—a discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risks in fields like insurance and finance, which led her to a senior management position at Equitable Life in Jersey City.
Heather graduated summa cum laude from St. Thomas Aquinas College and has since been an active member of the Society of Actuaries earning the distinction of Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA), the highest designation in her field.
“I always loved math, but I didn’t know what I could do with a mathematics degree besides teach, so I originally chose to major in engineering,” she says. “During my freshman year, I heard about the actuarial field and decided to switch majors.”
Heather discovered the field from a student she met on the first day of school in her honors English class who was an actuarial science major. “My computer wasn’t working, so he switched computers with me,” she says about Michael Annitto, BS ’16. “I helped him with math classes, and he helped me with finance classes. It was a perfect match!” That couldn’t be more accurate because the two are now engaged with plans to marry in April 2021!
Heather says she is happy with the major she chose because the intensive actuarial science program at STAC set her on the path to passing all the required exams. In her junior and senior years, she also took advantage of two internship opportunities at Zurich Insurance Group in New York City. These experiences gave her a firsthand perspective of working in the field and also led to a full-time position as an actuarial pricing analyst at the company when she graduated. Heather remained at Zurich for over three years before accepting a job offer at Equitable Life in late 2019.
During her college years, Heather kept busy with career-related activities, including the KPMG Mentoring Program. “It was a fantastic program offered by STAC,” she says. “My major goal of the program was to build connections, and to shape me into an appealing candidate to lead to an internship and then ultimately a full-time job. My mentor did just this. She reviewed my resume, helped me to build my interviewing skills, helped to build my connections, and gave advice on job opportunities.”
Heather, who earned a full-tuition scholarship in the STAC Honors Program, was also a member of the dance team, an activity that has been a big part of her life since childhood. Today, the Washingtonville, NY native enjoys exercising, reading, and going to the beach which is just a quick drive from Rockville Centre, the Long Island town she now calls home.
Interestingly, Heather took cosmetology in high school and while she doesn’t practice, she is a licensed hairdresser. Now that she’s fully immersed in her actuarial career, she admits without reservation that it is the perfect field for her, with excellent work/life balance and work that is low-stress and rewarding.
Heather’s economics Professor Meghan Mihal, Ph.D. isn’t surprised at how successful her former student has been since she graduated. “Heather was an exceptional student,” she says. “From the moment I met her, she was clearly focused on putting forth her best work and moving toward the credentials necessary to become an actuary. She never lost sight of her end goal and did all she could to land where she is now!”