The Kids Are Alright: Top Performers Born, Made and Real

By guest blogger Lynne McChristian

Within mere weeks of joining the faculty at Florida State University in 2015, I chaperoned a student group to Gamma Iota Sigma’s annual conference. With my more than two decades of deep experience with millennials (having raised two of them), I had personal insight on the misplaced labels pinned on this generation. There’s nothing like going on a trip with a group of people you don’t know to break down stereotypes altogether.

Here’s something you don’t often hear about millennials: They are smart, polished, professional, savvy – and driven. That was my take-away from my first GIS conference, attended by hundreds of students from risk management and insurance programs, including actuarial science programs. My positive first impression gets reinforced each semester, and it is a good sign for the industry.

Collegiate RMI programs are focusing on curriculum – and much more. Faculty are practical folks and fully understand the need to integrate the textbook and the tactical with interpersonal skills. And, we do what we tell our students to do: keep learning, keep thinking, keep improving. Greater emphasis is placed on building a well-rounded individual; in other words, helping a student think of not only how they look on paper, with a solid GPA and a slate of internships, but also how they come across.

Florida State University was listed among the Top Performers in a Best’s Review research study on the College Standouts for undergraduate RMI programs. Illinois State University, Temple University and University of Georgia were also in the top tier.

At FSU, we encourage RMI students to do more than show up for class. Getting involved in things that appear optional, I tell them, is a test in which you give yourself the grade. For example, we have a mentor program that pairs students with industry professionals for a weekly phone conversation. It’s a guided conversation with a weekly topic list. Students connect with industry insiders, and the emphasis is on developing interview skills and pursuing professional designations. Additionally, nearly every RMI graduate has completed an internship by the time they graduate. They get class credit for this and so much more, such as a solid job offer months before graduation. Participating in the professional business fraternity, Gamma Iota Sigma, is another option that we tout as building your network on campus because your network is portable and travels well.

Integration and collaboration with the industry remains an imperative. In fact, FSU established a Center for Risk Management Education & Research with a mission to link constituencies.
Stereotypes get busted all the time, including the one about academics being in a bubble. Those of us teaching in RMI busted the bubble years ago. Partnerships and close ties with the insurance industry continue to help keep it real and make it work.

Lynne McChristian is a consultant with the Insurance Information Institute and a faculty member at Florida State University. She is also the executive director of FSU’s Center for Risk Management Education & Research.

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