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New B.S. degree in Risk Management and Insurance approved

December 1, 2015
By Phil Dignan and Kaitlin Luna
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Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university in which all programs and services are designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, is now offering a major and a minor in Risk Management and Insurance (RMI). The development of the academic program is thanks in large part to a generous donation of $500,000 from the Maguire Foundation.

The funds are being used to establish the Maguire Academy of Risk Management and Insurance and to pave the way for students in Gallaudet’s Department of Business to pursue careers in the insurance industry.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs related to risk management and insurance such as actuaries, financial analysts, and accountants and auditors are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.

“An estimated 400,000 jobs in the field of insurance and risk management will become available in the coming years as people in those jobs retire,” said Dr. Isaac Agboola, interim dean of the School of Education, Business, and Human Services at Gallaudet. “The industry is beginning to recruit new talent and Gallaudet students will be poised to seize those new job opportunities.”

The mission of the Maguire Foundation is to invest in young people by partnering with educational institutions to provide students with scholarship assistance and grants for grade school, high school, and college. The Foundation was founded in 2000 by James Maguire, Sr., founder of the Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and his wife, Frances M. Maguire.

“The Maguire Foundation is an engaged partner and we deeply appreciate their investment in our students’ futures,” said Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz. “The establishment of the Academy makes possible more private-sector career choices. It also aligns with our strategic plan of increasing internship opportunities for our students, which strengthens our student recruitment efforts and keeps our business program exciting and cutting edge.”

The Maguire Foundation funded a similar program at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in 2007. St. Joseph’s faculty and staff are advising Gallaudet faculty and staff as needed during the launch of the new program.

Maguire found success by selling life insurance to the deaf community during the beginning of his career, a niche that developed from a friendship formed with a deaf couple. As their friendship developed, Maguire learned sign language and began a 50-year connection to the deaf community.

For the past two years, Gallaudet University has been offering introductory risk management and insurance courses to assess the feasibility of building out the program. The RMI program is currently being developed, and they have a newly hired executive director, James Bruner, to oversee the curriculum and engage employers in the industry to ensure that students in the program have access to internships and career opportunities.

Bruner brings 30 years of experience in insurance and risk management and also brings experience working with the deaf community. Bruner’s involvement with American Sign Language, and deaf and hard of hearing people goes back to when he was a college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1974.  Bruner began learning sign language from his roommate and new friends while he was a student at RIT. He later took some sign language classes at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of the eight colleges within RIT, and worked at NTID’s English Learning Center.

Bruner sees an opportunity for Gallaudet students to enter the field of risk management and insurance due to a wealth of internship possibilities in the region, advanced technology and communication access, and the expected, dramatic increase in job positions.

“This new RMI program is such a great opportunity for students to learn about and intern with a variety of great companies. The insurance industry is a very mature industry. As the baby boomers retire there will be a great need for filling thousands of jobs by young educated insurance professionals. It’s a great time for young people to enter the insurance industry and potentially earn high-paying salaries. It’s an exciting time for the students at Gallaudet,” said Bruner.
Gallaudet students are already taking advantage of those opportunities. An introductory course in RMI is being offered this fall and has 22 students currently enrolled.

Gallaudet business majors Jeffery Willoughby and Joshua Sechman completed underwriting internships last summer with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY). Willoughby, who graduated last spring, and Sechman were the first students from Gallaudet to intern with PHLY. Watch a video of their internship experience: http://ow.ly/Vl0yI 

Willoughby, who hopes to gain certification in underwriting, focused on reviewing business application renewals, performing rate calculations and recommending premium increases or decreases based on determining factors.

“I never thought I’d work in the insurance field. I first interned with the Office of Risk Management and Insurance at Gallaudet University where I got my first exposure and liked it,” said Willoughby. “When the opportunity arose to intern for [Philadelphia Insurance Companies], I took it. It gave me an in-depth understanding of companies in the private sector such as underwriting, claims, and marketing, all of which gave me different perspectives. That was a learning experience for me and will help my future career in the insurance industry.”

Sechman focused on tasks related to cyber security and on a large project where they had to review all 3,000 policies that the company currently has in use. He encouraged other students to participate in internship experiences.

“My advice to students is to stay highly motivated, work hard in school, and take their education seriously,” said Sechman. “These are the traits will lead to a bright future.”

“Our vision for the intern program is that it’s an opportunity for young people to become exposed first-hand to the insurance business,” said Robert O’Leary, president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Insurance Companies. “At the same time, it gives us a chance to learn more about the individual interns, to give them a test drive to see if they would be potential candidates to come work for us.”

1 December 2015
By Phil Dignan and Kaitlin Luna

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Phil Dignan and Kaitlin Luna

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