What’s in a name?
In one case, a new name – one with all the sex appeal that “insurance” can add to a title – has people like Framroze Virjee, president of California State University Fullerton, visibly stoked.
“This is something special,” Virjee exuberantly told a group of insurance industry executives last week during a board meeting of the Center for Insurance Studies, part of the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at CSUF.
CSUF has more than 40,000 enrolled students, and it graduates 12,000 students a year, so it should be noteworthy for Virjee to use the word “special.”
Virjee was speaking to the board about the center itself, which in 20 years of existence has developed over a dozen courses and three concentrations for roughly 1,100 students.
It’s a small fraction of the school president’s massive student body, faculty and staff oversight.
What had Virjee so excited was a simple name change. The center will now be called the School of Risk Management and Insurance.
“We have the foundation for an amazing, amazing beginning,” Virjee said.
Weili Lu, a professor and director of Center for Insurance Studies, explained that the new designation will enable the school to integrate all the resources from the university to provide more multi-disciplinary programs or certificates to all students at CSUF or the CSU system.
The school can now, for example, work with the criminal justice department and engineering college on the disaster recovery and claim adjusting program, or it could attract more communication and marketing students into the insurance marketing entrepreneurship programs.
There’s a takeaway for the talent-starved insurance industry as well.
“Overall the school will be able to provide more qualified potential employees to the industry,” Lu said. “More programs mean more classes and more funding opportunities.”
The School of Risk Management and Insurance is the only full-fledged insurance school on the West coast.
Outside the Western U.S., there’s the School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science (SRM) at St. John University, and the Katie School of Insurance in Illinois State University. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business recently launched a risk management program, which has been steadily growing.
The appeal of offering a dedicated place of study to prime young people to enter the insurance industry hasn’t been lost on local companies, which have heavily recruited from the center for a long time, according to Lu.
In fact, the school gets more interest from insurance companies looking to hire than it has graduates to offer.
At a recent I-day job fair on the campus, 33 companies attended to interview prospective job candidates. According to Lu, a common complaint they heard from companies attending the fair was that there were not enough candidates to interview.
Student placements directly from the school into jobs out of college are on the rise, with 131 students placed with insurance industry jobs in 2018-2018, up from 126 the year prior, according to figures from the school.
Lu said students are mainly being placed with carriers as underwriters, claims adjusters, application analysts, risk analysts, rate specialists, product analysts and actuaries.
Students have also been placed with brokerages in roles like junior producer, account executive, as well as agent and brokers, according to Lu.
She also said funding for the school’s operations are on the rise.
“There has been a significant increase in funds raised in all categories,” Lu said.
The school reported a 9% year-over-year increase, as this year’s total industry contribution exceeded $420,000. The school also reported $102,000 in scholarships awarded in 2019, helped significantly by Wawanessa Insurance, which gave the school a $40,000 one-time scholarship for actuarial science students.
But don’t get too used to the School of Risk Management and Insurance mantle. While it’s brand new, the name may not last long.
The school also announced a naming sponsorship opportunities for $2.5 million.
Other sponsorship opportunities announced include naming a Data Analytics Lab for $1 million, as well as endowed scholarships for $100,000, $50,000 and $30,000.
There are also endowed professorships for $250,000 (lecturer), $500,000 (professor) and $2 million (endowed chair), and the opportunity to sponsor the annual Insurance Forum for $500,000.
Lu and the center’s board, which consists of members of the insurance industry, educators and other business leaders, have used the forum to draw media attention and get the school noticed, often tapping keynote speakers like actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and the top brass at Lloyd’s America Inc.
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