If Luma Capital, a private equity firm in Naples, ever fields a football team, they will have a placekicker.
“I will always be down to kick,” laughed Matthew Sweeney, a 2019 Stetson graduate with a dual degree in mathematics and finance. Sweeney, who also played four years on the university’s football team as a placekicker, landed a job at Luma a few weeks before graduation.
Perhaps Sweeney has an even greater ambition, such as becoming a placekicker in the NFL?
“I wish, but I’m not sure that’s where my path is leading me,” said Sweeney, a J. Ollie Edmunds Distinguished Scholar at Stetson.
Before the Tallahassee native ever set foot on the Stetson campus, he knew his path would lead to a math degree.
“I’ve always been a numbers guy, so a math major has always been my goal,” he said. Sweeney also knew he wanted to earn a second degree, especially since he “came in with a lot of credits” and realized he could devote the time and effort to a double major.
But the nature of much of his Stetson experience – his finance degree, his research into a new mathematics field, his football career, his extracurricular activities – didn’t unfold until after he arrived on campus.
The summer before his freshman year, Sweeney was working in the office of his father, a doctor, “doing a mindless task in the file room,” he says. “I started listening to a finance podcast just to see what it was all about, and it really interested me.”
At Stetson he enrolled in a finance class “to see whether it was for me, and I ended up loving it.” He planned to go into the actuarial science side of finance – until he entered the Roland George Investments Program, headed by K.C. Ma, Ph.D., Roland George Chair of Applied Investments Director. Students in the program manage a real portfolio composed of $3.5 million in stocks and bonds.
“I really got a feel for what investment research looks like and how much work it is, but also how interesting it is,” Sweeney says. “That really fostered my skills and my love for investing, and for researching and understanding businesses. I learned a lot from Dr. Ma. He definitely cares about his students and he taught me a lot about the field.”
Sweeney was part of a four-person team from the Roland George program that competed this past spring in the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute Research Challenge for Florida. Teams from the 16 participating collegiate institutions were tasked with producing a research report on an actual publicly traded residential construction company. The Stetson team’s report was judged second place in the state.
Before graduation, Sweeney also passed the CFA Level I exam – the first step toward earning the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
“Most people begin that process after starting their career,” he says. “It was a lot of work but it gave me more insights into the financial industry.”
Sweeney also was a member of the Stetson’s Business Ethics Case Competition Team that competed at the prestigious McDonough Business Strategy Challenge at Georgetown University in February. That event involved solving real-life issues faced by a nonprofit organization.
Whether Sweeney is talking about finance or mathematics, that certain four-letter word – “work” – comes up often. It’s something he doesn’t shy away from. Consider Sweeney’s senior research project under his advisor, William Miles, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mathematics.
“My project was on topological data analysis, which is a pretty new field in mathematics,” Sweeney says. “It’s looking at big data, so we used that to try to find relationships within the housing market. I would not have been able to get anywhere without Dr. Miles because it’s a very difficult field. He helped walk me through it. That was one of my most impactful experiences at Stetson because I had to work the hardest for it.”
Indeed, Sweeney adds, a highlight of his Stetson tenure was “the opportunity to get to work closely with my professors. At a lot of schools you don’t get to know your professors that well, but since class sizes here are so small, I got to know many of mine.”
As for his football career, Sweeney didn’t begin playing the sport until his senior year in high school, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to play in college. However, Stetson coaches “reached out to me and I ended up doing it, thinking it would be a good experience,” he says.
Although injuries prevented him from seeing much game action, “it was one of my favorite experiences of college because I got to develop relationships with my teammates and my coaches,” Sweeney says. “That team atmosphere helped me adjust to college and to have an outlet outside of the classroom.”
Sweeney also found time to participate in the Honor System Council and Catholic Campus Ministries.
“I’m from a big family, so I was wanting to be able to establish good relationships here,” he says. “The opportunity to get involved in a lot of different things is always there and it’s on students to figure out what they want to do. It’s not hard to meet people here and to get close to them. I found that the Stetson community is really strong.”
— Rick de Yampert