Risk Management program unveiled

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

Mercyhurst graduate and Erie Insurance Board member Betsy Hirt Vorsheck recently made a $1.25 million gift to Mercyhurst. This will be used to develop an innovative new program called the F.W. Hirt – Erie Insurance Risk Management Program at Mercyhurst University. The program will begin development in the fall.

This program will offer a unique approach to Risk Management because it will bring together the strengths of two colleges at Mercyhurst: the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Science and the Walker College of Business.

Along with the development of new coursework, “We are looking at innovative and creative approaches to earning credits onsite [at Erie Insurance] and in the classroom,” Dean of the Walker College of Business Mary Breckenridge said.

Insurance uses an actuary science to calculate the level of risk in situations. Through this initiative, Mercyhurst will develop and expand academic programs focused on risk control, insurance underwriting and insurance claims. This will develop and expand an academic program focused on cyber security, data analytics and cyber intelligence in the insurance industry.

“Risk control is huge in colleges and agencies today. There are various facets of risk to look at in any situation. This area is totally fascinating,” Breckenridge said.

The university is exploring offering microcredentials, which are growing in popularity, as part of the Risk Management program. As students learn marketable skills, they will receive recognition for their knowledge of that skill.

“What we are trying to do is build a strong pipeline of talent to fill future jobs in the insurance field,” Breckenridge said.

A strategic intelligence report written by students from the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences explored the millennial generation’s outlook on careers in the insurance field. The student team discovered that recruiting millennials into the insurance industry can be challenging due to misperceptions about the insurance industry.

“Millennials value work-life balance, finding a purpose in work and promoting a sense of meaning through their work,” Breckenridge said.

The insurance field has numerous career opportunities that can provide those very characteristics millennials seek.

People turn to insurance often when big changes happen in life. It may be something exciting such as insuring a newly purchased home or managing business assets and risk factors. Insurance employees can also help in times of stress such as car accidents, health problems or even a death in the family.

“Insurance can be seen as a service profession because you do connect and serve others. The industry’s purpose is to help others mitigate risk. You are assisting people in their time of need,” Breckenridge said.

Erie Insurance is a Fortune 500 company. In December the company announced its plan to create 1,000 jobs. Additionally, the company will undergo a $135 million expansion of its headquarters in Erie. The new Risk Management program will also offer opportunities for Erie Insurance employees to gain further training and education.

“We believe that millennials should be aware of the potential job opportunities in this area, which are numerous,” Breckenridge said.