Risk Management U: Teaching the Next Generation: Historically, Risk Management Has Not Been Something You Learned, but Something You Just Fell into, Increasingly, This Is No Longer the Case and Students across the World Are Now Enrolling in University Programs to Become the Risk Managers of Tomorrow

By Gabel, Pearl | Risk Management, September 2008 | Go to article overview
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Risk Management U: Teaching the Next Generation: Historically, Risk Management Has Not Been Something You Learned, but Something You Just Fell into, Increasingly, This Is No Longer the Case and Students across the World Are Now Enrolling in University Programs to Become the Risk Managers of Tomorrow


Gabel, Pearl, Risk Management


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Teaching the Next Generation

It was not until his senior year at the University of Georgia's Terry School of Business that Andy Kuchar took his first risk management elective. His professor invited professionals from the business world to lecture on the different facets of the risk management industry, opening up an entirely new discipline to Kuchar. After graduation, he went to work as an auditor for KPMG, but soon decided that life as a corporate risk manager would be a better fit. So Kuchar returned to Terry to get a Ph.D. in risk management and along with his studies, began teaching younger students the same course that sparked his initial interest in risk management. Now, as the senior director of risk management for Arby's Restaurant Group, which maintains 3,500 restaurants worldwide, Kuchar has seen first-hand the increasing importance of formal risk management education. "It seems like an evolution is taking place," he says. "Companies are discovering that they need risk managers--they can't just take someone from another department and put a risk manager hat on them. I notice more and more job postings reading 'risk management degree preferred.'"

When Kuchar received his Ph.D. in 1999, few schools embraced risk management education as something other than an elective within a larger business, finance or insurance program. Students can now receive everything from a bachelor's to Ph.D. degree in risk management and insurance. Popular executive education and master's programs for working professionals allow risk managers and insurance professionals a chance to make more money and improve their careers.

"When I was in school, insurance and risk management were either something you 'fell into' or you [learned because you] were going to take over your father's agency," says Karen Hunter; an underwriting specialist at State Farm and a board member of the Gamma Iota Sigma risk management and insurance fraternity [see page 26]. "'Now a diverse group of. students arc choosing to work in risk management and insurance."

This changing educational landscape has ushered in a new appreciation of the speciality of risk management education from organizations in both the public and the private sectors. Rather than just choosing to relegate the role of risk manager to a well-informed financial analyst or operational expert, more and more organizations are realizing that they need trained specialists who can oversee a holistic approach. And with each passing year, events like Enron, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the subprime meltdown only elevate this necessity.

"Over the past five years, the world has seen many different disasters," says Erwann Michel-Kerjan, the managing director of Wharton's Risk Management and Decision Process Center. "The effects are now amplified because the growing interdependence between countries and companies. As a result, what is going on 5,000 miles away today will be on your desk tomorrow. Welcome to 'Risk Management 2.0.'"

Despite the rise in risk management majors, the position of risk manager remains high-level within most companies and generally requires experience, pushing many graduates--at least initially--to work in the insurance sector.

"Many undergraduate students want to be risk managers at the beginning, but it is challenging without the experience," says Joan Schmitt, the chair of the Actuarial Science, Risk Management and Insurance Department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "So many of these students go into brokerage, underwriting or consulting... There tends to be a focus on insurance, but insurance is only one of many ways to handle risk."

Of course, risk management is really an evolution of the insurance industry, so this intermingling is to be expected--and mostly embraced.

"Risk management is an expanding field," says Schmitt. "The origins came from the insurance industry and as a result of its growth, education is responding.

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