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The new executive director of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. is getting her feet wet in a hurry.

On the job less than two months, Linda H. Lamel will be in the eye of the national conference storm this week in Atlanta. She's worked hard to get ready.

"It's been pretty busy," she said, "learning what the issues are and trying to catch up as much as I can, particularly on those items that are going to be focal points at the conference. I think I would have liked a year to get ready to show up at my first conference."

Such a grace period was not available, though, because the society needed her on the job to succeed Eugene Ricci, who retired at the end of February.

Ms. Lamel is only the third executive director to lead the 47-year-old society. Mr. Ricci succeeded Ron Judd, who served for 24 years.

Ms. Lamel brings to the post a background in education and politics, having served as president of The College of Insurance from 1983 to 1988.

Prior to that, she was deputy superintendent of the New York Insurance Department and chief of staff to the lieutenant governor of New York.

Ms. Lamel left a job as a principal of Management Consulting Services in South Orange, N.J., to accept the RIMS position.

She plans to use her experience to emphasize educational opportunities for RIMS members and said she hopes her political background can serve the society in legislative matters and building ties with other professional organizations.

Ms. Lamel is particularly interested in RIMS' efforts to establish the Fellow in Risk Management designation, an advanced professional educational program that would be similar to one already in place in Canada. The society has been working on a curriculum and other details in preparation for the program's rollout.

"This is a major initiative for RIMS," she said, "to develop an advanced designation and to determine what should be a part of that designation and to start putting into place the program that will make it happen."

The FRM designation "will be a step further in the professional expertise of the risk manager," she said. "It's not unique to risk management to think of professional development as an ongoing process. There's always more that you can do to improve the level of expertise that you have."

As risk managers' responsibilities broaden and become more complex, they find they need to improve their skills, she explained. "RIMS seems to be the right place to determine what common body of knowledge risk managers should have in order to perform at the top of their level."

Ms. Lamel said RIMS also is discussing changes to its professional development courses, which saw a slight dip in registrations over the past year.

While the courses remain popular, "We may not have a professional development program that has sufficient breadth to satisfy a larger portion of the membership of RIMS," she said.

"I hope some of the things I've done politically will be useful as RIMS works on its legislative agenda," she said. "I spent eight years in state government and a lot of that time working with the Legislature."

Ms. Lamel hopes her political skills will help the society forge close working ties with other professional organizations, such as the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, the Public Risk Management Assn. and the Public Entity Risk Institute.

"We want to try to reach out and find those organizations where it seems natural for us to work together at times," she added. "I'm anxious to get to know those organizations."

"As a new person coming in, I have an opportunity to reach out to sister organizations, find out more about them and find ways in which working together makes sense," Ms. Lamel said.

Part of promoting the risk management profession means getting the message to students before they reach college, Ms. Lamel said.

"I don't know that everyone at RIMS is going to feel this way, but I certainly would like to see what we could do to bring ideas about risk management to the public schools more," she remarked. "We could certainly bring information about careers in risk management into the high schools to have kids start thinking about it before they go to college."

Risk managers from some well-known companies could get high-schoolers' attention, she suggested. "If, for example, the risk manager from Nike came in to talk to a group of kids, they would hang on every word. Young people can relate to the product and therefore the people associated with the product."

Not only could such presentations teach students about professional risk management, but they also would provide an opportunity to give lessons on personal risk, such as handling credit and spending, Ms. Lamel said. "I think they would relate to it, and it's a real opportunity for RIMS and RIMS members to be visible in the role that they play and the contributions that they make to their respective companies."

The Spencer Educational Foundation Inc., an affiliate of RIMS, makes grants to RIMS chapters to promote programs that introduce risk management and insurance concepts in their local high schools.