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College programs evolve in step with industry

Posted On: Dec. 1, 2021 12:00 AM CST

University of Georgia

Education at some of the nation’s leading risk management and insurance schools is changing to keep pace with trends driving the industry as educators add courses and content to remain relevant. 

Students are increasingly taught more about technology as it transforms the insurance industry, and practical experience through collaborative exercises is also emphasized. 

“There’s really a huge amount of change happening in the insurance industry right now,” said Stephen H. Shore, department chair and professor in the department of risk management and insurance at the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “We need to expose students to where the industry is going, not just where it is right now,” he said. 

Georgia State has introduced courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels on insurtech including “how technology is changing the pricing and process of the product,” Mr. Shore said. At the master’s level, risk management students even get courses in coding. The school also offers a doctorate program in risk management and insurance.

Georgia State provides experiential learning in projects called “sprints” in which groups of students under faculty supervision work on solving real world business problems brought to them by insurance industry partners. 

“Experiential learning has been a critical initiative at the University of Georgia in recent years,” said Robert E. Hoyt, chair and professor of risk management and insurance, and department head, insurance, legal studies and real estate, at the university’s Terry College of Business in Athens. 

Risk management students at the University of Georgia must complete a course in which they work in teams and complete a comprehensive risk management analysis and insurance review for a small business in the community, with the results then shared with the business.

“Many of these businesses say participating in these projects has provided them with significant business insights for managing their risks,” Mr. Hoyt said.

The university also continues to expand data analytics in its courses, with an emphasis on converting the information gathered into specific loss mitigation recommendations. 

Among the newer areas of study at St. John’s University’s Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science in New York are data analysis, the Internet of Things and new graduate programs, said Larry Pistell, senior associate director of corporate and industry relations for the school’s Tobin Center for Executive Education.

St John’s has also partnered with Zurich North America on a middle-market risk manager professional designation program, Mr. Pistell said. 

Students in the program must complete 42 hours of coursework and take a final exam, said Bart Shachnow, director of the Zurich Insurance Academy in New York, which he describes as “a platform we use to share risk management and insurance information, ideas and strategies with external audiences, including brokers and customers.”

The program has just completed its first pilot cycle, comprised largely of Zurich middle-market commercial underwriters, and will go public for other professionals in February 2022, Mr. Shachnow said.

Illinois State University has added classes in safety technology, disaster preparedness and system safety, the last “in recognition that some of our students want to go into risk engineering and we need to have students who think about risk prevention as well as risk financing,” said Jim Jones, executive director of the Katie School of Insurance and Risk Management at the university in Normal, Illinois. The university has made one of its latest projects, a risk in society class, available to students in any major. 

Mr. Jones noted that structural changes to a curriculum can take time. “You have to get approval through department, college and university committees,” and sometimes even at the state level, he said. “You have to create faculty lines for that. Then you have to get it into the course catalog,” all of which takes time.

The emerging risks course in Columbia University’s recently launched enterprise risk management graduate program focuses students on staying “one step ahead,” said Teresa Chan, director of the insurance management program at the university’s School of Professional Studies in New York.

“The industry needed a program that would break down the silos within insurance companies and so we designed it that way. Then we reconnect the dots for our students so that they see how the decisions in any one function impact the others,” Ms. Chan said.