No Risk Ahead: SJU’s Insurance Program Leads the Way
by Marisa (Fulton) Benjamin ’03
The intersection of scholarship and industry is at its best in SJU’s Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program. Ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 "Best Undergraduate Business School" rankings, released this September, RMI is the Haub School’s fastest growing major and is supported by one of the University’s most active academic centers.
“Our goal has been to position RMI as the premier program in the country through a holistic approach,” says Joseph A. DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. “We offer scholarships to students entering the program, help them with internships and later offer networking opportunities with executives from top companies in the industry to jumpstart their careers.”
DiAngelo and SJU professor and finance chair Karen Hogan, Ph.D., led the efforts to develop the academic program’s curriculum, housed within the finance department, in collaboration with Philadelphia Insurance Company founder and SJU benefactor James J. Maguire Jr. ’58, who recognized the opportunity for an insurance major at the Haub School of Business 10 years ago.
“Right here in the Delaware Valley, we have some of the finest insurance companies in America,” says Maguire. “We ought to be planning for the next generation to take over the industry.”
Maguire recruited the initial Academy of Risk Management and Insurance (ARMI) board, comprised of 15 local insurers and active industry leaders, and continues to serve as the board’s chair. Many of the early board members, including Anita Deven, senior vice president of Zenith Insurance Company, and Sean Sweeney '94, chairman of the World Energy Corporation, served as adjunct professors for the program’s first courses.
With the Academy’s engagement and the HSB faculty’s expertise, the program is drawing national attention for leading the best practices in the field of insurance — and producing top-performing graduates.
The Academy: Leading the Way Today
Under the direction of ARMI Executive Director Michael E. Angelina and with guidance from a robust board representing some of the country’s leading insurance companies, ARMI has garnered widespread respect and helped the academic major grow from 10 students in 2011 to 154 students in 2016 with 250 minors. The happy marriage between the academic program and the academy provides benefit to both insurance executives, who engage in research and industry-focused events, and students, who are drawn to robust academic offerings, direct access to top professionals and competitive job opportunities after graduation.
“We are distinguishing ourselves in insurance education,” says Angelina, a 30-year industry veteran and former executive with Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd., “and leading the way through our research, curriculum and student outcomes.”
Angelina recently presented on the underrepresentation of women in the industry during the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s global Women in Insurance Conference. His presentation was based on research conducted with Rajneesh Sharma, Ph.D., associate professor of finance, which analyzed information from over 100 insurance companies to examine gender diversity in the field.
SJU and ARMI also sponsored a widely attended symposium on diversity this past year, one of many symposiums hosted by ARMI. Speakers include some of the Who’s Who in insurance — in the past two years, a series of 80 insurance professionals have shared their firsthand experiences during symposia on issues such as mergers and acquisitions, ethics, price optimization, technology and more.
“These are the top issues in the field right now,” says Angelina. “We are bringing together executives to showcase thought leadership.”
ARMI also honors trailblazers with an annual Insurance Executive of the Year Award. This year’s recipient, Dan Glaser, CEO of Marsh & McLennan Companies, joins past honorees Stephen Johnson, retired deputy insurance commissioner of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department; Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of ACE Group; and Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyds of London.
The Curriculum: Preparing the Leaders of Tomorrow
SJU’s RMI curriculum is directly aligned with the material underlying one of the industry’s leading designations. Through their undergraduate coursework, students can complete three or four of the eight exams needed to obtain the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation.
“Our main objective is to help students launch successful careers. To do so, it’s crucial to expose our students to material relevant to what they will encounter in the business world and at the same time provide them with an opportunity to pass some of these exams,” says Angelina.
“Because the RMI curriculum [at SJU] is well-rounded and corresponds to the CPCU exam material, I was able to pass five of the eight CPCU exams before graduation,” says Kathleen Troy ’16, who is currently a risk analyst for Munich RE.
“The design of our RMI program allows students to build a more well-rounded resume,” says Hogan. “Many of our students have double majors or minors in other business fields. We encourage them to not only learn about the practitioner side of insurance, but to the dive into how RMI intersects with and is important to other industries.”
SJU’s exceptional RMI faculty, led by Hogan, infuse experiential learning, professional networking and awareness of the global nature of the industry into the RMI curriculum.
Associate Professor Steve Miller, Ph.D., served as a visiting foreign scholar at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, China, supporting cultural exchange in RMI teaching and research. Prior to his death this past February, Jean Heck, Ph.D., Brian C. Duperreault ’69 Chair for Risk Management and Insurance at SJU, annually led RMI students on a trip to Bermuda to meet the most senior executives in the industry including SJU alumnus Brian Duperreault ’69, CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group.
RMI faculty have also lent their expertise to Gallaudet University, a liberal arts university designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, contributing to the successful launch of an RMI program with the support of the Maguire Foundation.
With the professors’ support, SJU’s student chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, the international risk management, insurance and actuarial science collegiate fraternity, which gives RMI majors access to invaluable resources, including speaking and professional events.
“Our chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma and our professors do an incredible job of providing many networking opportunities,” says RMI major and Gamma Iota Sigma President Nicholas D’Orazio ’17, who completed an actuarial internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers this summer. “Frequently, these introductions lead to meaningful relationships with industry professionals, which, in turn, can lead to internship or job offers.”
“In my career I have never seen such collaboration between different interest groups coming together to start a venture from scratch that was so successful, so quickly, and yielded such great results,” says ARMI board member and past Insurance Executive of the Year Honoree Stephen Johnson of the Insurance Department for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Looking ahead, we are focused on an aggressive fundraising strategy to continue to grow the program, including increasing our endowment and scholarships,” says DiAngelo. “Our goal is to continue to be regarded as the top RMI program in the country.”