By KATIE KUEHNER-HEBERT, a freelance writer based in San Diego with more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing
Insurance companies are supporting the country's college programs in risk management and insurance through scholarships, chair endowments and grants to enhance curriculum, not to mention internships, mentoring and other efforts to support student growth.
Most firms in the industry are visibly active on college campuses because it's a golden "marketing opportunity," according to R.B. Drennan, chairman of the Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management at The Fox School of Business and Management at Temple University in Philadelphia.
"They want to recruit the best students to their company, so they're doing all these high-profile things to enhance their brand in front of our students," Drennan said.
Insurance companies such as ACE Group, Travelers and health insurer United America Insurance Group provide scholarships and summer internships to Temple students. Company representatives also regularly speak at the college's chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, a professional fraternity, as well as financially support the fraternity's charity programs.
Representatives from many of those companies also attend Temple's annual "Awards for Excellence" luncheon, a fundraiser to help support educational programs and research. The luncheon is sponsored by Munich Re, Guy Carpenter & Co., ACE and Chartis, with scholarships sponsored by Towers Watson and Travelers. Drennan added that the college also uses the funds to send students to outside professional events, such as Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) conferences.
Florida State University in Tallahassee has a professorship funded in part by State Farm Group, said Jim Carson, chair of the Department of Risk Management/Insurance, Real Estate and Legal Studies.
"This helps us attract and retain some of the best faculty in the country, as it's a very competitive market," Carson said.
Other insurers such as Travelers, Liberty Mutual Insurance Cos., Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co., and Amica Mutual Insurance Co. fund FSU students scholarships and grants to enable students to take certification exams for professional designations, such as the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) or Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCA).
"When times are tough and budgets are tight, being able to show that companies support our programs is very valuable," Carson said. "It's going to be a rare school that cuts an RMI program that has millions of dollars of support from the industry."
Greg Niehaus, associate dean of research and admissions at University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business, said that scholarships for its program are funded by insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Hope Aviation Insurance, a local firm, as well as industry vendors. Columbia, S.C., is home to a cluster of insurance technology firms that provide software solutions to improve efficiency in processing claims for various sectors, including healthcare, property/casualty, and workers' compensation.
As such, USC has a program in insurance technology and recently launched a website called Innovations in Insurance.
Insurance representatives also regularly speak in classes or at the college's insurance and risk management student club, Niehaus said.
"For example, we have people from an reinsurance intermediary come to talk about some of their experiences setting up an insurance program in a nonstandard market, walking them through specific examples of what the client needed and how they brought various insurers together to satisfy that need," he said.
Richard Phillips, chair of the Risk Management and Insurance Department at Georgia State University, said that up to 40 insurance companies financially support both scholarships and the college's mentoring program, including Wells Fargo Insurance Services, Chartis, Towers Watson and Allstate Insurance Group. Moreover, representatives from insurers such as Chartis volunteer to be mentors.
"The industry also sponsors an annual golf tournament in our honor," Phillips said. "This year, it will be at the Atlanta Athletic Club immediately after the PGA Tournament plays there."
The insurance and risk management program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is supported by the Huebner Foundation, a nonprofit financed by insurance companies, said Olivia Mitchell, department chair.
Since its inception, the foundation has assisted students and faculty with access to the various research databases and teaching materials in its library, according to Mitchell. The foundation also provides technological resources such as computer software and hardware, money for travel expenses to attend academic conferences.
"The foundation also helps the program with the student recruiting process and helps us attract high-quality applicants," Mitchell added.
Several insurers have also provided sponsorship for research and study, including CIGNA, the largest actuarial employer in the Philadelphia region. Wharton has a focus in life insurance and as such, major life insurance companies support its program, but many of the major commercial insurers including FM Global, Travelers, Liberty Mutual and Zurich Financial Services also support Wharton's program.
Steve Zenofsky, an FM Global spokesman, said that the insurer has donated $525,000 to the Spencer Educational Foundation, which gives scholarships to students of insurance and risk management college programs throughout the country. Scholarship recipients are also flown out to FM Global's research campus in Rhode Island to witness its property disaster simulations in person, Zenofsky said.
"We are working to ensure the next generation of risk managers has a better understanding of how the prevention of losses through engineering can make them better risk managers, and in turn, ensure the sustainability of their enterprises," Zenofsky said.
Moreover, FM Global has provided grants to University of Hartford in Connecticut, Virginia Commonwealth University and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., to help develop curriculum modules on the value of loss-prevention engineering. Hartford is using FM Global's videos and other materials that the insurer also uses as education programs for its corporate clients, and the college is now sharing these materials and the module it developed with other college programs throughout the country.
"This is good for the students, it's good for their future employers and it's good for the industry," Zenofsky said.
State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke said that the insurer has supported risk management and insurance programs throughout the country for years through scholarships, internships and general purpose funds "because they help develop a good workforce for State Farm."
Liberty Mutual recently donated $500,000 to the Spencer Foundation to fund scholarships, said Carla Muskat, head of talent acquisition and management for the firm's commercial markets.
The Boston-based insurer also awards scholarships to college seniors who have completed summer internships at Liberty Mutual and who have accepted a job offer with the firm after graduation, Muskat said. The scholarship helps pay for part of the students' expenses during their last year of college.
Matt Hamlet, vice president of talent acquisition at Travelers, said the firm has 34 partnerships with schools located near the locations of its corporate offices in New York, Hartford and Minnesota, as well as some of the top programs in the country. Travelers offers student scholarships--including ones that pay for textbooks--and internships.
The firm also has a scholarship program for low-income and first-generation college students in colleges in or near Hartford, including Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University and University of Connecticut. Travelers pays their college tuition and offers opportunities for part-time and full-time internships at the firm.
"We're not only giving them the chance to go to college, but we're also providing them with the real-life education of working in a typical office environment and giving them exposure to the insurance industry," Hamlet said.
April 1, 2011
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