Being awarded the CGW Schumann Medal for the best postgraduate student of 2020 in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences is not a bad return for Jamie Stolk who admits to not quite knowing what actuarial science was all about when she embarked on her studies at Stellenbosch University.
However, the medal recipient, who received a BCom (Actuarial Science) cum laude and a BComHons (Actuarial Science) cum laude in 2019 and 2020 respectively, was certain of one fact – her love for mathematics.
Said Stolk: “As is often the norm when you are at school, I didn't have a very clear understanding of what the course entailed when I chose my studies while at Glenwood House School. So when asked by Prof Garrett Slattery (head of Actuarial Science) in my first year at Stellenbosch why I decided to study actuarial science, I simply answered, 'Because I enjoy maths'.
“But what I did know was that I wanted to be thinking strategically and solving complex problems at a high level. I knew that an actuarial science degree would better equip me to do this and that the skills I would develop could be applied to a wide range of problems in different industries.
“I ended up really enjoying what was covered in my undergraduate course and decided to continue with my honours. It was towards the end of this degree that I started developing a keen interest in banking and finance."
Slattery described Stolk's four years of study at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science as “truly exceptional".
“With her lowest mark being 80% and over half of her module marks being in the 90%-99% range, she demonstrated a consistently exceptional grasp of the technical material covered in the Bachelor's programme.
“She also achieved the top mark for her Honours research assignment, as well as for the main Actuarial Risk Management Honours module. In the final examination for Actuarial Risk Management she outperformed all of the students from the other three universities who wrote this examination. It is rare that a student demonstrates such versatility in each of the various aspects making up our programme," said Slattery.
On top of that, Stolk was awarded prizes for being the top student in both Actuarial Science and Mathematical Statistics in the final year of her undergraduate studies. In her Honours year she also emerged as the top student.
However, Stolk's university career did not just revolve around her studies. As a member of her residence's Connect Committee, she was involved in raising funds for social impact projects. She was also a member of the tutor committee that volunteered to help students with their studies.
“I loved staying in Lydia Residence. I met incredible girls and learnt so much about different people and cultures. I did work extremely hard academically, but a balance is essential and being able to play sports (netball, table tennis and hockey), tutor and join committees were definite highlights for me."
Stolk, who is currently working as a trainee in Standard Bank's Corporate and Investment Banking Division, considers it a great privilege to have been awarded the Schumann Medal. The medal, named after Prof CGW Schumann, a pioneer lecturer in the Faculty from 1924 and dean for a quarter of a century, has been awarded annually since 1986. The award is the highest student accolade in the Faculty.
“I had no idea that I was being considered for this award. It was such a pleasant surprise! Looking at previous years' winners and finding out why the medal is given, was a humbling experience," she said.
The George native credits her father Jack, mother Liesl and sisters Sarah and Chanelle for having played a massive role in her academic success.
“The support I received from them throughout university was instrumental. My parents and sisters – and indeed the entire extended family – are my biggest cheerleaders and the most supportive bunch of people around," said Stolk.
Her plans for the future are to complete her actuarial board exams – specialising in banking and finance – and to qualify as an actuary.