Oswego offering SUNY's first bachelor's in risk management, insurance

SUNY Oswego has launched the first bachelor’s degree program in risk management and insurance at a public school in New York state, a program organizers say meets a key industry need.

“The events of the past year to year-and-a-half brought a lot of attention to risk management and insurance,” and the field continues to hire and has been growing in some sectors, said John MacDonald, an assistant professor of finance and risk management at SUNY Oswego.

“This program, the kind of student we get, the work ethic we see can provide a very professional employee for companies,” MacDonald said. “The industry is looking for good entry-level people, especially with the large numbers in the insurance industry ready to retire.”

A few years ago, local businesses and the Metropolitan Development Association of Central New York approached SUNY Oswego about creating such a program to prepare students to enter what is a very active field locally, said Charles Spector, professor and chair of accounting, finance and law.

Central New York as a region has the second-highest insurance industry employment east of the Mississippi River. “We have many insurance companies in the Syracuse area very interested in this major succeeding,” Spector said.

Geographic location, the School of Business’ international accreditation and Oswego’s business network made the college a good fit for the degree program, MacDonald said.

To introduce it, SUNY Oswego’s Metro Center in Syracuse recently hosted its first risk-management speaker series for local businesses.

“We have a large number of alumni highly placed in the industry, and they have been very enthusiastic,” MacDonald explained, adding that initial discussions point to many good opportunities for internships.

MacDonald recalled a recent e-mail from an Oswego graduate “who liked the idea of people coming out of college with basic ideas about insurance who won’t need additional training” to enter the field.

Those graduating with the new degree would be well-positioned for jobs as underwriters, insurance agents, claims adjusters, brokers, loss-control specialists and benefits administrators in human resources, MacDonald said. The major could also prepare graduates for work in risk management at entry levels or as a consultant.

Oswego has offered “Introduction to Risk Management and Insurance” for three years and has developed “Employee Benefits,” “Property and Liability Insurance” and “Life and Health Insurance” courses. Even non-majors—particularly students pursuing degrees in human resource management, finance or business administration—can benefit from these electives, MacDonald said.

Risk management and insurance majors will also take core business courses in accounting, business law, finance, marketing and management, as well as math and economics.

“We have good relationships with the math department and economics department, and their support is important,” Spector noted in explaining the interdisciplinary nature of the new major.

A capstone project for the “Risk Management Problems and Cases” course will provide depth of experience and culminate the major.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: John MacDonald, 315.312.2956

(Posted: May 13, 2009)