Why do you study math?

byEric Zmuda '17
Eric Zmuda
Eric Zmuda '17 shares why he studies math at Denison University.

Why do you study math? I was asked that question often especially after I explain my coursework within the Mathematics Department at Denison University. Beyond my inherent passion for analytical problem solving, the answer to this question became exceedingly obvious after 10 weeks, 7 states, and 21 flights over the summer of 2016.

I had the privilege of being chosen as a Deloitte Summer Scholar through the Denison Center for Career Exploration and working as a strategy and operations commercial consulting intern with the Detroit, Michigan office of Deloitte Consulting. This 10-week internship allowed me the opportunity to demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education and to incorporate the creativity of mathematics into my analytical problem solving assignments.

Many people are not sure what consultants do on a day-to-day basis. To put it simply, consultants are agents of change. They are the intellectual horsepower behind the most pressing and complex problems that a business might face. When businesses of substantial size are struggling to find the answers, there is strong likelihood that management will hire consultants to assist with the problem resolution.

I was placed on two very different and unique projects over the summer; one with a large healthcare services provider and the other with the integration of two mega consumer goods companies. Although I wasn’t familiar with the services or products of the companies, I was confident that my mathematics background and problem solving skills would provide the educational foundation necessary to bring value to the projects.

Consulting projects are approached with a team of experienced and well-educated analysts. I was fortunate to receive training from an amazingly talented group of men and women at Deloitte. My duties and responsibilities were extensive and more than I anticipated. I was empowered to participate in the projects as an integral member of the team as they provided invaluable insight to the client. From brainstorming root causes for grievance resolution, to leading meetings with senior clients discussing options for the integration of two different business cultures, there was one overriding theme with my internship responsibilities: problem solving through.

No matter the experience, or years on the job, problems must be attacked from a variety of viewpoints and distinctive insights. My Denison education has provided me with a mindset to understand problems, generate solutions and effectively communicate my solutions to others. My coursework in Proofs, Modeling, Linear Algebra, and Computer Science has given me the tools to ask thought provoking questions and delve into problems using a systematic analytical approach. The Denison Math Department faculty has educated me about the strategies that are required to break down problems, step by step, and articulate solutions to an audience who may not understand the underlying mathematics. These tools are invaluable in the business world and, particularly in the consulting industry.

The commitment that Denison University has to its mission of engaging each student “to become autonomous thinkers and discerning moral agents,” through its challenging curriculum and dedicated faculty, is unprecedented. Through my summer internship with Deloitte, I have a newfound appreciation of how this commitment will help me to succeed in the future. So why do I study math? The answer is simple, math teaches you how to solve problems.

    October 19, 2016