At first glance, Tom Fredericks’ academic interests in math and philosophy seem like an unlikely pairing, but he enjoys the common threads between the disciplines. “They are both systems based on logical, empirical thinking,” he explains.
A native of Portland, Conn., Tom applied to two colleges: the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., and Green Mountain. Partial color blindness prevented him from enrolling in the academy, but he’s glad he chose GMC.
Tom didn’t read many philosophy texts in high school, but loved the two courses he took freshman year—Heather Keith’s Logic course and Bill Throop’s Philosophy of the Mind. Now he’s taking Steve Fesmire’s Topics in Political Philosophy, which he describes as “a real blast.”
Likewise he ate up professor Kenneth Mulder’s courses in gaming, which explore problem-solving through several fields of mathematics. “I took Games 1 and audited Games II –they helped focus my thinking in concepts like the role of marginal returns and strategic thinking.”
This experience led him down another unexpected avenue—financial investing. As part of an independent study with prof. Jim Harding (Dean of Faculty, natural resource management) he’s been exploring investment strategies—principally stocks and stock options.
With Jim’s encouragement, Tom headed up a student team including Marjuk Ahmed ‘17 and Ben Webb ’19 to compete in the annual “Think or Swim Investment Challenge” sponsored by TD Ameritrade. This is a month-long competition in which teams, made up entirely of college students, are each given $500,000 in a virtual brokerage account.
Over four weeks from October 10 to November 4, the teams invested in stocks, bonds, and options to increase the value of the account. When the competition ended, Tom’s team (GreenMtn Investing) finished 13thout of 726 teams from all across the United States, turning the $500,000 investment into $633,874.75 for a monthly return of 26.77%.
“It was pretty intense—we couldn’t invest more than 10% in any one stock so it was a constant process of finding the best market position.”
Tom is interested in socially sustainable investing—strategies that seek to consider both financial return and social good—and he is one of two students serving on the College’s socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee.