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Success & Impact

Haub Students Sweep National African American Insurance Association Competition

A team of four undergraduates combined their varied skill sets and competitive spirits to create what judges deemed the best pitch of the day, earning each of them a $1,500 scholarship.

Four Saint Joseph's students standing in front of the Everest Insurance office Left to Right: Joseph Gibbs ’25, Kevin Yonkeu ’24, Marzani Hall ’24 and Selynne Ochieng ’25

Written by: Alex Hargrave ’20

Published: November 16, 2023

Total reading time: 4 minutes

After strategizing most of the summer and into the fall semester, a team of four Saint Joseph’s University undergraduates were confident they would do well at the National African American Insurance Association’s (NAAIA) eighth annual National Talent Development Competition. Still, they were surprised to learn they’d placed first among the 11 universities competing nationwide — in the University’s first year participating, no less.

Hard work paid off for actuarial science majors Kevin Yonkeu ’24 and Selynne Ochieng ’25, finance major Joseph Gibbs ’25, and risk management and insurance major Marzani Hall ’24, who were sponsored by insurance industry corporate advocate Everest. With mentorship from Saint Joseph’s Maguire Academy of Insurance and Risk Management (MAIRM) and Everest employees, the group delivered a 15-minute pitch presentation on how they would assist an insurance company in developing inclusive insurance products for low-income communities experiencing significant weather and climate disaster events.

“They really put together a phenomenal proposal,” says MAIRM Associate Director Susan Kearney. “The judges said when they were done, ‘We would invest in you.’”

Gibbs says he and his teammates were reminded of the Jesuit principle cura personalis, or care for the whole person, throughout their experience, and the idea that insurance should be inclusive.

“Clients are more than mere policyholders, but human beings with personal needs and challenges,” he says. “The prompt reminds me that insurance is about ensuring people's security and well-being, not simply about policies. Moreover, creating solutions for lower-income communities helped me develop a better awareness of the disparities in access to insurance protections.”

They really put together a phenomenal proposal. The judges said when they were done, 'We would invest in you.'

Susan Kearney

Associate Director, Maguire Academy of Insurance and Risk Management

The NAAIA was established in 1997, in part, to promote diversity in the insurance field. As Black students aspiring to eventually work in insurance or a similar field, Hall, Gibbs, Ochieng and Yonkeu wanted to be part of it.

“The fact that the competition was catered toward Black students definitely felt empowering,” Ochieng says. “It was good to have this as a way for us to feel more connected in the insurance industry.”

The students say their risk management and insurance courses in which they learned about different insurance contracts, in addition to their professors’ support in and out of the classroom, were crucial to their success. Their finance classes were also helpful in the consulting aspect of the project, where they calculated costs and shared those with the fictitious company they were consulting.

“It was easy for me to apply the things I learned in class to the competition, which is why I felt confident in competing,” Hall says.

It helped that as a team, the foursome worked together seamlessly using their distinct skills and talents — all while juggling summer internships.

“Working with a group, sometimes everybody doesn't hold the same weight, but I felt like here we divided it up evenly and helped each other out,” Hall says. “I couldn't have asked for a better group to work with.”

Image A group of Saint Joseph's students, faculty and staff outside of the Everest Insurance office
Left to Right: Joseph Gibbs ’25; Kevin Yonkeu ’24; Marzani Hall ’24; Selynne Ochieng ’25; Mary Ann Cook, MAIRM executive director; Susan Kearney, MAIRM associate director; and Jack Whitaker, co-director of the actuarial science program and actuarial executive in residence

For Mary Ann Cook, MAIRM executive director, the win demonstrates the value of prioritizing collaboration and social justice in Maguire Academy programs.

“To have these students demonstrate that hard work, commitment and collaboration really pays off in high-level achievement among the highest level university competitors in the country shows that we punch above our weight here as a niche program in the business school,” she says.

The students also credit their professors in the Haub School of Business for their success in the competition this fall, citing skills they learned in both consulting and presenting, as well as their mentors in the project, including Everest employees, Kearney and John Whitaker, co-director of the actuarial science program.

“All of these other schools were way bigger than us,” Yonkeu says. “If you think about the pool of students they had and that we came out on top, it shows you our RMI and actuarial science programs are very strong.”

Looking ahead, Hall, Gibbs, Ochieng and Yonkeu say they would like to see more students of color in the risk management and insurance and actuarial science programs.