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Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

A Risk Perspective on College Students

By: | October 3, 2017 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University and a former Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS). His recent book deals with risk management in higher education: "Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Higher Education — Why Colleges and Universities are Struggling to Deliver the Goods." His website is www.jackhampton.com.

Did you ever wish you could be a salesperson at the Tiffany flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan? Somebody, nicely dressed, walks through the door and your heart beats faster. This is a customer and you know what to do. Sell expensive bling and your job is done. Smiles all around.

The situation is far more complex for the newly-minted college professor. After years of dull, plodding preparation, you drag your doctoral degree through extensive interviews and finally obtain a position at a college or university.

You kind of know what you must do. Your days will be spent in the classroom or advising students at the desk in your drab, tiny office. Your nights and weekends will be spent writing articles because publishing research is mandatory if you want long-term academic employment. The daily routine will occasionally be interrupted by committee meetings with no apparent goal or purpose.

A professor is a highly-trained professional, not unlike a medical doctor. There is a difference. Doctors, like the salespeople at Tiffany’s, know what they’re supposed to do. They treat patients, heal disease, and repair physical damage. Salespeople describe features of jewelry, promote glamour, and sell status to customers. Professors have no such clarity.

The college is creating something of value that will later be provided to satisfy the wants and needs of society and employers. The product is an educated person with writing, math, and problem-solving skills verified by a college degree.

In a time of turbulence in the role of higher education, the situation poses serious risks for professors and their institutions.

Collectively, the faculty and staff need to resolve a basic dilemma. Is a college student a patient, customer, or something else?

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The answer is simple from a risk management perspective.

The student plays a dual role in academic institutions. He or she is a customer — the recipient of a service provided in a financial transaction. The service is learning leading to a diploma. The financial transaction is tuition.

The student is also a product. The college is creating something of value that will later be provided to satisfy the wants and needs of society and employers. The product is an educated person with writing, math, and problem-solving skills verified by a college degree.

The college only succeeds if it initially treats students as customers and then converts them into products. Tiffany’s brings you into the store with excitement and expectations. Its jewelry shines brightly as it leaves the store to fulfill the promise.

The current crisis in higher education is likely to force the closure of many schools. This is a challenge for college professors. Instead of discussing the parking problem on campus, perhaps they should promote a balanced perspective of their role with students. Everyone’s job is to serve the student as customer until he or she is polished up to a high gloss.

Released as a product at graduation, the student helps the institution achieve its Tiffany-like stature with one exception. Selling jewelry rarely changes the world. Medical doctors and professors often do. They need to get it right.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]