Impact Extends Beyond the Classroom ... to the Library
Reverberations from the ongoing changes in risk management curricula are extending beyond the classroom, and even university libraries are responding to the fundamental shifts that are taking place.
Consider the new initiative at the Davis Library of the venerable School of Risk Management at St. John's University in New York, which is widely regarded as the home to the world's largest collection of risk and insurance literature, policies and related documents.
"Our Davis library is taking steps to build a comprehensive collection of risk information to address the explosion of literature in recent years and the serious and growing gaps in the availability of comprehensive risk information," says Ellen Thrower, executive director of the Risk Management and Insurance Department of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John's University.
"It is a shortfall that is emerging even at the largest risk management academic programs.
"Increasingly, the historical 'silo approach' to risk management is being replaced by an enterprisewide view of risk that extends throughout an organization, and across multiple disciplines," adds Thrower.
"The result has been an explosion of risk literature from multiple disciplines including insurance, finance, accounting, mathematics, computer programming, management, sociology and public governance."
The importance of the Davis Library initiative for the entire risk management and insurance community is underscored by comments from Casey Long, business liaison librarian at Georgia State University.
In the letter of support for the $100,000 grant that St. John's has received for the initial year of its library initiative, Long emphasized that the initiative "will not only help institutions with established programs, it will enable other institutions to participate in this complex and growing field. ... (I)n addition to being a very interdisciplinary field, many risk management and insurance resources focus on multiple niche areas, are practitioner focused, are delivered in a format that is difficult to archive effectively."
For instance, a major priority of the St. John's library initiative is to go beyond the acquisition of books and monographs, and to "concentrate on 'gray' literature, which is information that is published in small amounts, directed to a highly specialized community, and normally is not acquired by academic or corporate libraries," says Thrower.
"As a result, such information is not represented on major bibliographic databases, is not readily found on the Internet and is largely invisible to the larger community.
"We feel that there is a gap and that our program will help to fill the void," Thrower says.
Interestingly, this new library initiative is a 21st century echo of a key part of the mission for which its predecessor institution was founded more than a century ago. The origins of the St. John's risk management program date back to 1901, when insurance industry leaders founded the Insurance Society of New York to provide a library, study space and material for young people entering the insurance industry, and to serve as a site for insurance lectures.
And, more generally, the library initiative is just one facet of the response at St. John's to the changing education needs of the risk management and insurance community.
"We are pursuing broader strategies to incorporate ERM and the evolving concepts in the practice of risk management throughout our program," says Thrower. "We recently launched our new Master of Science in the management of risk, and we are incorporating the new concepts and practices in the graduate components of the Tobin School of Business and in our undergraduate curriculum."
B.G. YOVOVICH is a business journalist and author based in Evanston, Ill.
April 15, 2008
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