The insurance industry has a reputation for being boring—a drawback that can limit the number of students interested in the field, Ron Lieber writes for the New York Times.
So Butler University partnered with a local employer to bring the excitement and challenges of risk management to campus, Lieber writes.
The project was led by Zach Finn, a risk management professor at Butler University, who was no stranger to the insurance industry’s “image problem,” Lieber notes. While working in insurance, Finn noticed that the industry didn’t have enough recent graduates applying to entry-level roles.
To draw students into the insurance profession and boost their career outcomes, Finn partnered with Michael Bill, cofounder of MJ Insurance, to form and oversee a student-run insurance company on campus. After MJ Insurance donated $250,000, the student-run company earned its license to insure, Lieber writes.
Now, insurance students at Butler gain hands-on underwriting experience by taking on real risks around campus. The students have an edge over outside insurers because they “know the ins and outs of the buildings better than a standard insurance company would,” says Josh Toly, a senior and chief marketing officer for the company.
For example, the students have insured the lives of two important figures on campus: Trip, the university’s bulldog mascot, and Marcus, the campus’ bomb-sniffing dog. The student-run insurance company also covers other students’ start-ups, a telescope, and a fleet of Steinway pianos, Lieber writes.
But not every insurance endeavor goes smoothly. After noticing a leaky drain near the rare books section of the library, the students recommended coverage—which ruffled some feathers, Finn says. Eventually, the problems were addressed. But the experience taught students how to communicate their recommendations and diffuse tense situations, both of which are lessons you “don’t get in a textbook,” Finn says.
Butler isn’t the only school partnering with businesses to provide experiential learning opportunities for students.
Many colleges are now deploying students to complete one-off projects or solve organizational challenges for local employers, writes Peter Cellier, a senior analyst for EAB‘s Continuing and Online Education Forum.
Students currently enrolled in these programs represent a largely untapped resource that can be valuable for employers eager to identify emerging talent and access inexpensive specialized labor for urgent projects, Cellier writes.
Wichita State University (WSU), for example, partners with several regionally prominent aeronautics firms to provide students for contract projects. WSU sources and trains the students, provides faculty oversight, and retains 25% of the contract revenue, while students earn a $25 hourly wage and obtain opportunities for full-time employment (Lieber, New York Times, 2/12).