8 Questions with Cindy Baroway, Executive Director of University of Colorado Denver’s RMI Program

Former CPCU Society president Cindy Baroway talks about her path to success, her thoughts on servant leadership and the future of the industry as seen through her students.
By: | February 15, 2024

To help celebrate Women’s History Month, Risk & Insurance magazine is featuring just a few successful women in the industry. Cindy Baroway, CPCU, executive director of the Risk Management and Insurance program at the University of Colorado Denver, spoke with us about her career, how she has achieved success and the ways she shares her knowledge with the next generation.

Risk & Insurance: Could you please tell us about your current role and what your typical day looks like?

Cindy Baroway: In my current role as the executive director of the Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) program, I work with industry partners to raise awareness about our program, our students and our events. I fundraise for student scholarships, program funding and experiential scholarships (such as raising funds so more students can attend RISKWORLD or a GIS conference or a CPCU conference), and I teach RMI courses.

Last year, the dean of the business school asked me to develop a career and professional development course — it is required for all business school students. Last fall was the first semester it was offered, and I taught three of eight course sections. Since then, the dean has asked me to also be the program director for this course and two other business school courses: Emotional Intelligence and Empowering Women in Business.

My typical day is that it’s not typical. I have meetings with students, industry partners, faculty and staff, either at the business school or at industry partner offices or at coffee shops around town. I teach two days a week and spend time before class sessions preparing for class.

After class, I spend time grading homework, developing exam questions and meeting with students to discuss their homework and their goals. I may have a lunch meeting with an industry partner to strengthen the relationship or to make an ask for funding or scholarships, or just to host students in their office for a shadow day event.

I’m also a mentor to two first-generation and multicultural (FaM) students. I meet with each of them at least three times a semester. I was also a first-gen/multicultural student, which is why I enjoy mentoring FaM students.

No two days are the same!

R&I: What achievements are you most proud of throughout the course of your career, and how have these experiences shaped your perspective on leadership and the RMI industry?

CB: Becoming the first Asian-American and fifth female president and chair of the CPCU Society in 2013 is one of my proudest career achievements.

I received my CPCU designation in 1998. I immediately became involved in my local Colorado chapter and the CPCU Society holding chapter officer roles, eventually becoming chapter president twice, as well as serving on Society committees, first as a chapter governor and then as an officer to the leadership council, culminating in my chair position in 2013.

Much of my volunteer leadership was while I was self-employed as an insurance consultant and expert witness and teaching part-time at the University of Colorado Denver since I left the corporate world in 2001.

In my role at the university, I’m proudest of our RMI graduates! We have 100% job placement for our RMI graduates! We are also able to provide scholarships for every student who takes one RISK course.

I believe in being a servant leader. I enjoy creating environments where everyone can thrive. There have been several CPCU colleagues who I mentored early on in their careers who have become leaders within their organizations or within the CPCU Society. It brings me joy to see them achieve their goals and sometimes go further than they ever thought they could. I have the same sense of joy as I watch my former students grow within their careers. I often tell them that I want to shadow them for the day!

Having been in and around this industry coming up on 40 years (ouch!), I’m pleased to see changes within the industry that now truly put their employees first.

R&I: How do you foresee the future of risk management education, and what role do you believe it plays in shaping the next generation of industry leaders?

CB: The future of risk management education should mirror the future of the industry. As changes continue in the industry, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT, the academics would also have to change to ensure we are teaching our RMI students accordingly. If the textbooks aren’t updated, then educators will develop their own materials to keep pace with the change.

Staying in tune with our industry partners will benefit RMI educators. By asking them what they need from their new hires, and then doing our best to teach as much of that as we can to our students, we will provide the students with an educational advantage when applying for RMI positions. The students will then be better employees for the industry.

R&I: Throughout your career, what challenges have you faced as a woman in the insurance industry, and how did you overcome them to reach your current position?

CB: Given when I started in the industry, I’ve faced a few challenges as a woman. At times, a claimant or an attorney refused to speak with me because they didn’t believe I knew enough to get the job done. One time at a settlement conference with a judge, the opposing attorney practically laughed in my face and looked at my male colleague and asked him for more authority, as the attorney thought this colleague was my boss. Well, he wasn’t my boss; he was actually a trainee I had brought along so he could observe.

I tried my best to be sure that I had done my homework so that I could substantiate my position with facts and details. That’s also why I completed my CPCU and AIC designations. Back when I did, fewer women were taking CPCU. In fact, I once had an agent who couldn’t believe that I had my CPCU.

R&I: How do you think being a woman in the RMI industry has helped you or shaped the course of your career?

CB: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my work experience in the RMI industry, my volunteer leadership roles and my CPCU designation. The work experience provided me with practical knowledge that I can share with my students. My volunteer leadership roles afforded me opportunities to teach (facilitate) and mentor others. My CPCU designation and my masters in education provided me with the credentials to be able to teach in higher education.

Being a woman in the RMI industry sometimes placed me in positions where I was the only woman in the room, and sometimes also the only diverse person in the room. Those experiences helped shape who I am today and built my confidence to succeed.

R&I: What advice would you give to young women aspiring to build a successful career in the insurance sector, especially those looking to pursue leadership roles?

CB: I would recommend that they look to continuing education first. Find a designation or certificate that applies to their role in the industry. Complete that one first and then work towards your CPCU. Or just go for your CPCU!

I would also recommend that they look for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities, whether it’s within their company or a volunteer role.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also suggest they work on their presentation skills. I was a member of Toastmasters through my employer for two years. I credit that experience with helping me to speak extemporaneously and to be able to present to large audiences … because I was an extremely shy child and young adult. I knew I had to get comfortable with public speaking if I wanted to get ahead.

R&I: Women’s History Month celebrates the achievements of women throughout history. Are there particular women in the insurance industry or elsewhere who have inspired or influenced your career?

CB: Early in my career, I had a female supervisor who encouraged me to start my CPCU, to be sure I was involved in activities beyond my desk and to get involved with our CPCU chapter. Without her influence, I doubt I’d be where I am today.

In terms of inspiration, there have been many women throughout history that I admire and find inspiring: Nellie Bly, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart and Maya Angelou — to name a few.

R&I: Who or what inspires you?

CB: Today, my students inspire me. They challenge me to be a better educator. I appreciate their curiosity and candor. &

Abi Potter Clough, MBA, CPCU, is a keynote speaker, author and business consultant focused on Insurtech, leadership and strategy. She has over 15 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company with expertise in P&C claims operational leadership, lean management consulting, digital communications and Insurtech. As the past chair of the International Insurance Interest Group of the CPCU Society, Abi remains involved in many international initiatives and projects. She has published two books about change management and relocation. Abi can be reached at [email protected].

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