Risk Manager in Residence Program exposes students to interdisciplinary careers

Tsvetanka Karagyozova is clear on why a career in risk management is important – and her reasoning makes perfect sense. “Life is full of risks,” says the assistant professor in the Department of Economics. “And we need an interdisciplinary approach to be able to properly identify them.”

Karagyozova is keen on sharing this perspective with students. So much so, that in 2015 she initiated the Risk Manager in Residence (RMIR) Program at York University with the encouragement of Ron Davis, board member and past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Spencer Educational Foundation and Executive Vice President at Zurich Commercial Insurance, and Angela Sabatino, Programs Director of the Spencer Educational Foundation.

From left to right: Students Maliha Farhad (VP Marketing, ESA) and Aneri Patel (President, ESA) with Prof. Tsvetanka Karagyozova and Risk Managers in Residents Michele Centeno and Michael Lubben.

Funded by the Spencer Educational Foundation (https://www.spencered.org/), the RMIR program (https://www.spencered.org/educators/risk-manager-in-residence) brings prominent risk managers to campus; they discuss careers in risk management and insurance with staff and faculty.

From the outset, the calibre of visiting professionals has been phenomenal. From 2015-2016, Karagyozova welcomed Susan Meltzer, Vice-President Risk at Aviva Canada, as RMIR. The following year, Ed Furman, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics and founding director of the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC) spearheaded the program and welcomed Mari-Jo Hill, Director of Risk Management at SAS, as RMIR. From 2017-2018, Karagyozova and Furman joined efforts to host Chris Mandel, Senior Vice President, Strategic Solutions, for Sedgwick, Director of the Sedgwick Institute, and past president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS).

This academic year, the program was hosted by Furman, Karagyozova, and Ida Ferrara, associate professor in the Department of Economics and deputy director of RISC. The program brought to campus Michael Lubben, Director of Henry Crown and Company, and Michele Centeno, Senior Vice President at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

“A factor behind the success of the program at York is the strong pool of diverse, knowledgeable, and experienced risk managers created by the Spencer, multiplied by long-term engagement of dedicated faculty members and an extraordinary interest from undergraduate and graduate students from distinct Faculties,” said Furman.

“The risk managers that we had the opportunity to host over the last four years proved to be not only consummate professionals but fantastic educators as well. Their ability to reach out and connect to our diverse body of students and faculty left a lasting impact on many in their audiences, both students and faculty,” added Karagyozova.

The pedagogy behind events like the RMIR program is rooted in the long-standing understanding that experience plays a central role in education. This pedagogical approach, which emphasizes the importance of experience in the learning process, is known as “experiential education” (EE) and it is one of the four instructional priorities at York.

“In the classroom, we expose students to theoretical and empirical techniques to quantify, measure, and price risk. But we are also committed to bridging theory with practice. The RMIR program provides students with opportunities to experience first- hand how the theories and core concepts learned in class help address problems business organizations face,” said Ferrara.

Connections built during the RMIRs’ visits at York transcend the RMIR program. York University students efficiently utilized the opportunity to start building their professional networks. “When I got home,” Meltzer wrote in a reflection piece for PULSE magazine, “I accepted many LinkedIn invitations – as [students] were eager to begin their networking opportunities.” These connections paved the way for subsequent participation of Aviva representatives in career-oriented events and professional networking opportunities organized by the Economics Students’ Association at York. They have also paved the way for DRIM, a diploma in risk and insurance management currently under development, to be offered through RISC.

Spencer’s grants are very generous, as any money remaining from the RMIR events are not to be refunded to the donor, but can be used for future events related to the field of risk management and insurance. Examples include career days, insurance events, or other student-related education. Remaining funds were used in 2016 to bring to campus Michael McCord, then-Chairman of the Board of the Microinsurance Network and President of the MicroInsurance Centre, to deliver a talk on the importance of microinsurance for economic development and to interact with students. McCord has since joined RISC’s Board of Advisors.