Category: Risk & Insurance

VCU conference explores risk management issues tied to today’s workers

“Navigating Risks & Challenges of a Changing Workforce” will take place Tuesday, March 7, at Snead Hall, 301 W. Main St., first floor. Registration opens at 7:15 a.m.

Keynote speakers are Antonio Canas and Janet L. Walsh, Ph.D.

Antonio Canas.
Antonio Canas

 Canas, a self-described “insurance nerd,” blogger and speaker, is a prominent voice of the millennial generation in the insurance industry, helping it understand how to engage this large demographic that will soon make up more than 50 percent of the workforce.

Janet L. Walsh, Ph.D.
Janet L. Walsh, Ph.D.

Walsh is CEO and president of Birchtree Global, a business services firm that provides the legal, financial, tax and human capital infrastructure for globalizing businesses. She is also an adjunct professor of global business in the executive MBA program at the New York Institute of Technology.

“This year’s RISC Conference will explore and address many of the talent risk exposures facing organizations,” said Tim Cook, director for the Risk and Insurance Studies Center at the VCU School of Business. “Attracting and retaining quality employees moves an organization from good to great. The conference will provide insight into the challenges associated with talent risks by presenting a variety of topics, including the overall exposures of an organization, analyzing data, creating the future workplace, the impact of wellness and navigating the changes with the incoming millennial talent.” The conference is open to all and is geared toward insurance, risk management and human resource professionals. Sponsorship and proceeds from the conference provide for student development, enrichment and scholarships.

To register, visit

School of Business graduate students help government agencies with data management

Monday, Aug. 3, 2015In some circles, statistics have a bad reputation. Mark Twain implied statistics are the worst kind of lie, while humorist Evan Esar defined statistics as “the science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.” Why the mistrust in statistics? Because understanding data can be difficult.

“Many misunderstand data’s role in decision-making – leading to confusion between cause and effect,” said Peter Aiken, Ph.D., associate professor of information systems in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. “It’s light outside and it’s daytime. That’s a correlation, right? Well that’s interesting, but in this case, just because we passed 12 hours, doesn’t mean it caused the light to come back on. What caused it was the earth revolving. It is only through better management of the data surrounding these questions of light and dark that we can begin to understand various causes and effects.”

As an authority on data, Aiken teaches his students how data management can help organizations to better approach various decisions, including separating reality from randomness. The exercises are so effective the state has taken note, tasking Virginia Deputy Secretary of Technology Anthony Fung — known informally as “Deputy Secretary Data” — with overseeing the state’s data re-engineering internships among his other duties.

Last fall, Gov. Terry McAuliffe established the program through VCU to explore additional uses of data to improve citizen benefits and state government effectiveness and efficiency. Based on Aiken’s curriculum, the internships provide a unique opportunity for graduate students to collaborate with chief information officers of participating states agencies. The students work in teams of two or three to evaluate available data and identify specific business cases in which data can be used to improve decision-making.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 3.18.17 PMWhy is this so important? Well, “big data” is more than just jargon.

“Data is the only resource we have that is a nondepletable, nondegrading, durable, strategic asset,” Aiken said. “We spend or invest fiscal resources, we wear out as human beings, capital assets degrade over time. … All organizations maintain data assets and if you put in place a program to treat them with the respect they deserve, they will grow in value over time and more importantly the organization will mature in its ability to employ them productively in operations.”

About 20 state agencies and 45 students have participated in the internship since its launch last fall. Class participants gain practical experience using data to drive re-engineering. At the end of the semester, participating CIOs have concrete examples of how to make better use of data to provide innovative and less costly services to citizens.

For example, Aiken cites one agency that works with endangered children. Agency workers would go to homes with an 80-point checklist to evaluate specific cases. The VCU interns tested the variables to see how much impact each had.

“This team did a phenomenal job, determining [which] data collected had little or no impact on the cases,” Aiken said. “By getting rid of the data that’s in the way, we can concentrate on those aspects of the case that are really important. Separating correlation from causality. In the future, it will be easier to separate urgent from routine cases, permitting this agency to better allocate resources according to its mission.

“Once we have that type of a result, we can now package these results for other classes permitting increased analysis,” Aiken said. “The hope is that we can expand this program to other universities.”

Certainly the program benefits both the state and its students.

“We estimate that total agency benefits [include] permitting specialists to process more cases, focus more time on investigative work or reduce the paperwork requirements,” Fung said.

Benjamin Siegel has gotten so much out of the internship that he is now in his third semester of the program.

“Supplementing my textbook learning has increased my ability to meet prospective employer requirements,” said Siegel, an Army veteran who is pursuing a master’s degree in information systems. “I’ve grown by working on a real-world problem. I’m working with real-world people, with real-world problems and real-world deadlines. It motivates me to find the best possible solution because the outcome isn’t only a grade but the implementation of a solution I helped to create.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 3.19.37 PM

While typically information systems students apply for the internship course, it’s open to any graduate student in the School of Business. The course does not require students to have an information systems background, but it does require a background in data. Aiken said the program has attracted students from just about every School of Business department, such as accounting, finance and logistics. Moreover, he sees such a future for data analysis that he’s proposing a data course for all business undergraduates and collaborating with Jeff South, associate professor in the Robertson School of Media and Culture, on a possible interdisciplinary project with students from both schools.

“Our thinking is that Peter’s students would focus on compiling and analyzing large data sets and that my students might focus on putting a human face to the data — by using the data as the foundation for news stories,” South said. “In data journalism, reporters analyze data, find trends and anecdotes to support those trends, and then write news stories that combine statistical analysis and compelling narrative.

“It’s hard to make people care about numbers, statistics and data. But if we show how the data connect to ‘real people,’ then we can get the information across.”

If people understood numbers, statistics and data, they might care more. It’s challenging to teach statistics well, but worth it, Aiken said. Because if statistics are not properly understood, you are in danger of focusing on bizarre connections, such as the divorce rate in Maine correlating with the per capita consumption of margarine.

Graphs demonstrate how correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Chart courtesy
Graphs demonstrate how correlation does not necessarily equal causation.
Chart courtesy

“If you looked at that, you’d say, ‘There must be a relationship,’ right?” Aiken said. “This is why we need the additional grounding to go in and say, ‘Is that coincidence or is that, in fact, causation?’”

Utilizing existing data to its fullest potential is a risk-free route to better efficiency.

“In a time when government is expected to do more with less,” Fung said, “data is a resource that we can turn into actionable information in order to get greater [return on investment] and improving programs and outcomes for our citizens. In government, we need to move toward a much more data-driven culture where we can measure the value we create.”

For more information on the governor’s data internship, contact Peter Aiken, Ph.D.,


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School of Business Awards Ceremony


On Friday, April 11th, the School of Business held its Awards Ceremony in the Snead Hall Atrium recognizing outstanding students, faculty and staff.

We want to congratulate all of the award recipients for their hard work and dedication in furthering themselves as well as the School.  We are proud to have such incredible individuals a part of the School of Business community.

Below is a list of all of the award recipients along with an image gallery.



Find out more about the Office of Student and Alumni Engagement here. 

Risk Management and Insurance students taking risks of their own!



VCU Risk Management and Insurance students taking some risks of their own while in Chicago for the NAPSLO Extreme Risk Takers Symposium. 103 stories above street level on the Willis Tower Sky Deck.


RISC Trends Conference featured in Richmond Times Dispatch

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 10.36.32 AM

The 2014 RISC Trends Conference was held yesterday in Snead Hall and welcomed insurance industry professionals, students, faculty and staff.  The conference is put on annually by the School’s Risk & Insurance Studies Center and invites a panel of business leaders to discuss various topics.  This years topic focused on the threat of terrorism and how the possible “renewal of the Terrorism Reinsurance Act will have implications for the property casualty insurance industry.” Nationally recognized speakers were invited to discuss the topic.  This years list of speakers included:

  • William Parrish, senior advisor in Homeland Security, Parrish Strategic Solutions; former senior executive, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Jennifer Rubin, vice president, Hiscox
  • Shari Natovitz, senior vice president and risk manager, Silverstein Properties and World Trade Center Properties
  • Janice Ochenkowski, managing director and global risk manager, Jones Lang LaSalle
  • James Gilmore, former governor, Commonwealth of Virginia; former chair, Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction
  •  Robert Bradshaw, president and CEO, Independent Insurance Agents of VA
  • Doug Palais, founding member, Park Palais, LLC

Click here to read the article about the event featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

School of Business Hosts Nearly 90 Businesses For Biggest Career Fair to Date

Jerrold Price, a Claims Manager with Nationwide Insurance, interviews sophomore Abhisek Sabbe
Jerrold Price, a Claims Manager with Nationwide Insurance, interviews sophomore Abhisek Sabbe

The School of Business hosted its 2014 Spring Career Fair last week, featuring the largest number of visiting recruiters to date.

Despite being held on a make-up day due to the season’s ever-changing weather, the event drew nearly 90 businesses looking to hire VCU students and alumni.

This semester’s career fair was held in Snead Hall and the Qimonda Atriums. The wing of the Engineering School was used by the fair for the first time in order to accommodate all recruiting business’s exhibits.

With a 23 percent increase in companies attending from previous fairs, students had an opportunity to solicit information about jobs, internships and other opportunities with businesses looking for budding young professionals.

According to the School of Business Career Services, nearly 700 students attended the career fair.

Snead Hall “There was great participation by employers and students,” said VCU School of Business Career Services Director Mike Eisenman. “The employers were extremely complimentary of not just the volume of participation, but also the quality.”

Eisenman says at least one student was hired immediately after speaking and turning in a resume with one business. Twelve companies had already scheduled interviews with VCU students prior to the career fair as well, according to Eisenman.

“There are a lot of qualified individuals,” said Elizabeth Cane, a Regional Property Manager with Dodson Property Management. “We’ve gotten a lot of excellent questions. Everyone seems serious about this job fair and students are taking advantage of a great thing here.”

Joe Dodd, VCU Class of ’12, attended the fair as a recruiter with Geico. Dodd currently works for Geico as a Management Development Associate in Auto Sales and said he was happy to help recruit from his alma mater.

“I attended all of the career fairs while I was at VCU and I made a lot of good connections,” Dodd said. “If you see a name you recognize or something you’re interested in, my advice is to go up and just introduce yourself.”

Geico recruiters Joe Dodd, VCU '12, and Sean Clark
Geico recruiters Joe Dodd, VCU ’12, and Sean Clark

Abhishek Sabbe, a sophomore double majoring in Information Systems and Computer Science, said he attended the fair in order to find an internship for this upcoming summer.

“The Career Fair has been amazing because it has given me an opportunity to learn more about different companies I had never heard of,” Sabbe said. “It’s let me put my name out there and provides real job opportunities.”

New to this semester’s career fair were more businesses in developing fields such as Supply Chain and Analytics. Eisenman says professors like Wayne Slough were instrumental in attracting companies to recruit at the fair.

Eisenman says the Career Fair is mutually beneficial for both students and businesses, creating opportunities for both parties to be successful.

“Employment is good right now.It’s a good time to be looking for a job if a student is taking advantage of the resources available,” Eisenman said. “They need talent. That’s the reason they come and we have that talent here.”

For information on upcoming Career Fairs and career building workshops offered by the School of Business Career Services, click here.

Article by Chris Suarez, student journalist

School of Business BOSS Fair Features Four New Student Organizations

On Wednesday, February 5, the Snead Hall Atrium will be hosting the annual BOSS Fair. BOSS, or Business Organizations and Student Services, gives students the opportunity to talk with representatives of different student organizations and learn more about becoming members.

There are four new organizations that will be included in the fair this year that students should look out for: Net Impact, Business Honors Society, Omicron Delta Epsilon, and Alpha Kappa Psi.

Net Impact: Net Impact is an international organization of over 40 chapters and 40,000 members. Their main goal is to help students find the right career paths by exploring diverse ways that students can use their skills for a positive impact. According to the organization’s President, Katy Flick, Net Impact “empowers a new generation of leaders to implement innovative solutions that address the world’s most pressing environmental and social needs of our time.” All majors, business and non-business, are welcome to join Net Impact, They invite those interested in all sectors, industries and departments. “We believe that it will take individuals from all walks of life to come together to make a real impact” says Flick. This semester they will continue their program, Board Fellows, which placea students as non-voting board members of non-profits. Other plans include working closely with similar organizations, and helping out at the International Business Forum, taking place in April.

Business Honors Society: The VCU Business Honors Society is geared towards developing highly motivated students into well rounded professionals in their specific fields of business. They host events such as soft skill improvement, student academia development and invite successful professionals to come and speak to members about where they want to be in their career. Jaraad Hines, the society’s President, says that the organization is “focused on developing highly motivated students.” One of the society’s plans for this semester is having Joe Becht, the founder and managing partner at Becht Advisory Group, a healthcare consulting company, speak at their first event this Spring. A 3.5 GPA is required, and once that is met the society is willing to help students meet the rest of the requirements. Their goal is to develop study skills, broaden business skills, and introduce members to successful professionals.

Omicron Delta Epsilon: As one of the largest societies in the world, with over 600 chapters, they seek to reward high-achieving students in economics, including majors and all interested in the discipline, and promote the study of economics in the University. After reestablishing themselves this semester, founding members were inducted in January at the Jefferson Hotel. According to Hassan Burke, ODE’s President, the society wants to “emphasize building a closer relationship between the faculty and students and highlight employment and academic opportunities to those students.” Two traditions they are planning to start this semester is an annual research month where faculty can showcase their research to students each week to spark interest in the field of research, and an end-of-year economics banquet where students and staff can get to know each other on a more casual level. “There are certainly other ideas but it’s a new club with only a few members so we’re taking it slowly” says Burke. Students of all majors are invited to stop by the atrium on Wednesday to check out each organization for more information.

Alpha Kappa Psi: Alpha Kappa Psi prides itself on being the oldest and largest professional business fraternity in the United states, with over 200 chapters and more than 240,000 members. They started at VCU this semester to offer students a wide variety of leadership, networking and entrepreneurial opportunities, open to all class standings and majors. “Alpha Kappa Psi was founded on the principles of educating its members and the public to appreciate and demand higher ideals in business and to further the individual welfare of members during college and beyond,” says Cady Tabeling, the fraternity’s Expansion Coordinator. This semester the fraternity will be putting on a variety of professional, social and service events for members and the University. Their main goal for this semester is for students to take advantage of an opportunity to enhance resumes and get involved on campus. “Joining Alpha Kappa Psi at this time allows students to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a founding member of Alpha Kappa Psi at VCU and leave a legacy on campus,” says Tabeling. Each of these organizations will be represented at a different table during the fair on Wednesday. For more information be sure to meet with them and also check out the VCU Student Organizations page as well as the VCU Business Student Organizations page.

-Article by Amy Calhoun, student journalist

TEDTalks Time-Out! Introduced Admidst Climbing TEDx Popularity in Richmond


Embracing the TEDx mantra of spreading ideas, the VCU School of Business is introducing TedTalks Time-Out!

Every Wednesday this semester, the School of Business will be screening TedTalks, the world renowned conference seminar series that covers a breadth of topics from all types of industries presented by speakers at the top of their fields and disciplines.

The idea of screening TEDTalks began in the Office of Student and Alumni Engagement. Claire Calise, a VCU graduate student and Ram to Ram Coordinator says the office learned about TEDx from conversations with local business leaders and in-office chit-chat.

“We thought it’d be a great idea to give students a peaceful place they can come in the middle of the day and hear something they’ve never heard before, think about something they never considered and learn something for fun.” Calise said.

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, began in the 80’s as an annual conference in Monterey, Ca. that looked to merge the three fields and showcase innovation among the disciplines.

Calise said the School of Business is aware many professors at VCU use TEDTalks in their respective classes for lectures, citing its value as a tool to teach and entertain students.

“They make you question what you know,” Calise said.

Although the program is just beginning, students who are even remotely familiar with TEDx are coming to learn more.

“I think TEDTalk videos are really inspiring,” said Britney, a Marketing major who was in attendance at last week’s screening. “They make me want to go out and do something after watching them.”

The popularity of TEDx has permeated throughout all of Richmond in the last year. In 2009, TEDx was founded, leasing the TED name for local events, so anyone, anywhere could apply to organize their own TEDx presentation.

Last year, TEDxRVA held its first conference and featured a large number of presentations, including researchers from VCU, a performance by modern pop-pianist ELEW and Zoe Romano and a local Richmonder who became the first woman to run across the country without a support vehicle in 2011.

TEDxVCU is currently being planned by a student-led team under the direction of junior, Elliot Roth.
“What’s really sad at VCU sometimes is student voices aren’t heard, they get lost in our huge university,” Roth said. “This event is our opportunity to have a student voice and have ideas expressed.”

Roth said the diverse culture of VCU would be more than fitting for a TEDx event, giving students an opportunity to showcase the different ideas and cultures that exists right on-campus.

TEDxVCU held its first open meeting last week and is currently looking for a location and talent. The organization has open-mic nights planned in the near future to scout potential speakers and spread even more awareness of the program.

Roth and Calise said TEDTalks Time-Out! bring more attention to local TED events, and in turn educate students more about Richmond.

“I love this city and I think VCU students should be proud that they’re here,” Calise said. “Sometimes students don’t seem to get off campus much, and it’s unfortunate. We should learn more about the city we live in.”

While both TEDxRVA and TEDTalks Time-Out are being rolled out almost simultaneously, the associations had no previous contact. Roth admits it’s a happy coincidence, being mutually beneficial.

The TEDTalks Time-Out! screenings will take place in Snead Hall, room B1114 every Wednesday this semester at 3pm.

Each month will have a different focus; January on Leadership, February on Collaboration and Non-Profits, March on Sustainability and April will feature presentations from last year’s TEDxRVA. Students, faculty and staff from all all over VCU are invited to attend the weekly TEDTalks Time-out event.

If you have an questions or comments for TEDTalks Time-Out! please contact Calire Calise at or (804) 828-2035.

If you’re interested in participating with TEDxVCU, please contact Elliot Roth at or (703) 232-6241.

For the complete TEDTalks Time-out! schedule, visit

-Article by Chris Suarez, Student Journalist

VP Risk Manager for Walt Disney comes to Speak at VCU

IMG_2062Last Wednesday, the VCU School of Business welcomed Steve Wilder, the Vice President of Risk Management for Walt Disney Company, for a luncheon and afternoon presentation. The event was sponsored by the Spencer Educational Foundation where Wilder served as the President Risk Manager. While the luncheon was geared towards professionals in the risk management and insurance industry, the afternoon session was open to all students and faculty.

“It’s amazing to have such a big name here to present,” said Terence Grier, a senior studying Information Systems. “Even though I’m in a different field, I’m curious to hear [Mr. Wilder’s] story so that maybe I could reach his level of success.”

Over the years, Wilder has acquired dozens of titles and accolades, including President of the Risk Insurance Management Society and being named as one of the “100 Most Influential People in Finance” by Treasury and Risk Management Magazine.

During his college years, Wilder majored in economics. “Studying economics was beneficial to what I do now,” said Wilder, “But the best advice I have for students interested in risk management is to stay dedicated and build strong professional relationships along the way.”

Wilder has been with Disney for over 26 years. Since then, the Disney name was expanded from an animation company with its own theme park to a mega media powerhouse with networks like ABC and ESPN under its belt. “Just today, we launched Fusion television which is targeted towards Latin American adults,” said Wilder.

With Disney’s expanding brand comes an even greater need for risk management. During the session, Wilder stressed protecting Disney’s reputation is a top priority and that nearly every accidental loss is preventable. Nearly every aspect of Disney is carefully insured from its large collection of animated cells to its recurring movie stars.

“The hardest celebrities to insure are Patrick Dempsey and John Travolta,” said Wilder. “Dempsey because he races cars and Travolta because he’s known for flying aircrafts.”

Disney’s Risk Management Division continually plans for disasters. Wilder explained how his team was able to circumvent a major loss in Disney videos games after a Sony warehouse was burned to the ground during the 2011 UK riots. “We worked out a deal with Nintendo…In the end, no sales were lost,” said Wilder.

The session concluded with a question and answer segment and an opportunity for attendees to speak with Wilder face to face.

-Article by Brittney Barbour, student journalist

Prospective Students Are Welcomed at VCU’s Fall Open House

Prospective Students and Parents visit various booths to find out more about programs offered.
Prospective Students and Parents visit various booths to find out more about the programs offered.

Last Saturday, VCU hosted it’s first Open House of the semester. The day consisted of tours and information sessions allowing prospective students and their families to get a sense of campus life and academia. Over 100 high school seniors and their families attended a presentation at Snead Hall to learn more about programs within the School of Business. Most students were between the ages of 17 and 18, and each showed a serious interest in pursuing a business-related career.

“I’ve always been really good at math and numbers but I didn’t really know what to do with it,” said Thomas Roberts, a senior from Northern Virginia.

“I joined the investment club at my high school and that’s when it clicked,” he said. Roberts wants to pursue a career in accounting or economics and chose VCU’s School of Business because of its outstanding value as a state school.

This value has earned the University a great deal of national attention. Though most come from Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach, and other nearby cities, many of the prospective students on Saturday came from areas along the east coast, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

“I heard about this school from my uncle who lives down here,” said Monique Slater from Long Island, NY. Slater, who wants to work for the international business market, said that the  open house was so impressive that she pushed VCU to the top of her list of possible colleges. “I haven’t heard anything I don’t like about it. Richmond is very different from Long Island, but I’m sure I can get used to it.”

During the presentation, Dean Ed Greir described Richmond’s culture and growing economy. Many found this beneficial, especially since VCU is considered an urban campus.

What Marilyn Glenn, a parent from Virginia Beach, loved most about Richmond was it’s healthy balance of busy city and serene suburbia. Others, like 17-year-old Eric Johnson, were very interested in Richmond’s unique culture and lifestyles.

“Growing up, I used to want to be a musician” said Johnson, who is now interested in studying Information Systems and technology at VCU.

“I started taking art classes in high school and decided that I didn’t want art to be my main curriculum. Richmond does have a great music scene, though, so I can still go to school and do my music thing on the side.”

Student Ambassador President, Ti'Lon Paige, shares the advice she gives to incoming students.
Student Ambassador President, Ti’Lon Paige, shares the advice she gives to incoming students.

Although his decision to attend VCU is not final, Johnson has already expressed interest in participating in VCU’s student radio station, WVCW. Getting involved in campus organizations is the key to making it at VCU, according to Ti’Lon Paige, president of the School of Business’ student ambassadors.

“My biggest regret freshman year was not participating in any programs and staying in a shell,” said Paige, who is now in her senior year. “I tell all new students, ‘Go out there and take what you want.’ You can’t expect anybody else to make college work for you.”

VCU will host its next Open House on November 2. For more information about Open House, click here.

-Article by Brittney Barbour, student journalist

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