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One thing about working in higher education risk management that surprised Courtney Davis Curtis is that those managing the compliance, insurance and risk needs of competing universities and colleges almost always share trade secrets.
“We share information, raise questions and help one another. We can say, ‘I checked with 10 other institutions, and here’s what they said,’” she said. “Before COVID-19, somebody has usually dealt with something before.”
Campuses, such as the University of Chicago’s sprawling urban campus on the south side of Chicago that enrolls more than 16,000 students, are like “little cities,” she said, listing the various components, including housing, hospitality, facilities, grounds and a medical center.
The challenge of keeping the campus safe in the pandemic is a novelty, Ms. Davis Curtis said, adding that when the time came in the spring to make plans for a fall opening at the university she volunteered to help.
“A pandemic is a long-term event, and you have to figure out how to adapt and move forward,” she said of a discussion that is now universal in the college setting and comes up often in her role as president-elect of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association.
“This has created a lot of opportunities to get involved to help the institution, where there was no road, no right or wrong way to do things. It’s been phenomenal, talking with epidemiologists and consultants. … Wearing my risk management hat, I have been in working groups to think through some of these issues.”
Ms. Davis Curtis’ first two jobs of her career were with brokers — Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. and Marsh LCC — both in higher education risk management.
John McLaughlin, senior managing director of the higher education practice at Gallagher, hired Ms. Davis Curtis for her first job out of school following her internship there. “She had that spark,” he said of her standing out among some 200 interns. “She was very engaged and curious. She’s been that way her whole career. She jumps in with both feet.”