Alex Vander Stoep
Actuarial Associate, The Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa
Alex Vander Stoep

Economic man

A true economist, Alex aimed to get as much out of his college experience as possible. A double major in economics and actuarial science, he played trombone in the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and Chamber Orchestra; played junior varsity baseball and intramural basketball; served as vice president of the Actuarial Science Club; and volunteered with Junior Achievement and the Big Brothers program. He also completed actuarial internships with his current employer and The Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut.

What does your job involve?
As a member of the Pension Risk Transfer pricing team, I assess how much employers should compensate our company so we can adequately fund and manage their employees’ pension plans. By assessing a range of actuarial assumptions such as client longevity, investment yields and the assumed date of retirement, I ensure that pricing is appropriate for each specific plan while still aligning with our company’s goals and risk tolerance. 

What led you to pursue an economics major?
I viewed economics as the perfect supplement to my actuarial science degree. I knew it would provide a unique perspective on business that would be helpful to my career, but it has always been an area of study that interests me. Economics is at the heart of all decision making, and it explains how individuals, businesses, governments and every organization in between makes choices with limited resources. We also find economic influence in social issues such as inflation, poverty, health care, human rights and unemployment. Effective solutions to these problems require a strong understanding of economic principles to consider how we can make the world a better place to live.

In what ways did NWC impact your faith?
Northwestern’s impact on my spiritual life is perhaps best illustrated by an exercise Dr. Huffman shared during his Probability and Statistics class. Using mathematical notation, Dr. Huffman outlined for us Northwestern’s mission to integrate faith and learning.

Northwestern’s Goal = faith dlearning

By evaluating this integral, we find that Northwestern’s academic focus creates the outcome, Northwestern’s Goal = faith * learning + C.

Assuming that faith > 1, the true goal of Northwestern is to provide a strong academic background and then to enhance that background by building upon the foundations of our faith. I personally like to relate the constant term at the end of the evaluation to the only thing in this world that remains constant—God’s relationship to us as human beings, the students in his classroom. Who knew that math could be so effective in explaining Northwestern’s mission?

What did you enjoy most about residence life at Northwestern?
Instead of living with friends from high school or people I was already good friends with, I chose to have my roommates randomly selected each year. Given my modest levels of social anxiety, this was a bit terrifying, but the quality relationships I gained were far greater than I could have imagined. Over the course of my four years, I roomed with incredible musicians from band and choir; artists and poets who saw the world in a completely different manner from my analytical brain; athletes who were dedicated and enthusiastic about their 5 a.m. practices; and teachers who were excited to form and instruct young minds. I am grateful to have learned from, laughed with and grown alongside these individuals, because each one had a unique impact on how I see the world today. 

How did Northwestern prepare you to lead a life of significance?
My college courses not only taught the technical skills needed to succeed in my career as an actuary, but they shaped how I view my learning, work and civic responsibility. As someone who is humbled by the never-ending task of learning to live in God’s world, I will always be grateful for the professors, colleagues, classmates, coaches and friends who have fostered my faithful curiosity and modeled what it means to participate in God’s redemptive work in this world.