Higher Education Risk Managers Face a Dire Strategy Reckoning Even as In-Person Classes Resume

By: | June 17, 2021

John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University, a core faculty member at the International School of Management (Paris), and a Risk Insider at Risk and Insurance magazine where he was named a 2018 All Star. He was Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), dean of the schools of business at Seton Hall and Connecticut State universities, and provost of the College of Insurance and SUNY Maritime College in New York City.

Before we virtually lost all human contact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, my wife and I regularly would join others for cocktails and dinner. She occasionally would remind me how to behave:

“Don’t talk about risk management. It’s boring. Nobody cares about it.”

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She was partly correct. I did not receive warm feedback on cyber security, money laundering, cryptocurrencies or outlaw trade. The reaction could be acrimonious when the topic was higher education risk management.

I had the same reaction in academic circles. The titles of my recent books may have had something to do with it.

Culture, Intricacies, and Obsessions in Academia … The Professoriate Today — Languishing in Dante’s Purgatory …  Liberal Arts in the Doldrums … The Malaise of Academic Scholarship.

My soon-to-be-released book might be destined for a similar fate. It does have a more promising title: Resolving the Crisis in Higher Education: The Key Role of Business Continuity Planning.

The target audience is partly the people of URMIA. Not the city in Iran. Rather, the risk managers who are members of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association.

Additionally, the target is other stakeholders who need to recognize and respond to the risks facing higher education.

The book’s basic argument is that the trustees, professors and administrators should sit down together and answer a few simple questions:

  • What are we doing now?
  • Who are we doing it for?
  • What should we be doing to help them and us be successful?

These questions quickly drill down to specifics. Consider the sometimes heated debate on the value of a liberal arts versus a business administration degree:

  • Where do the liberal arts fit into our activities?
  • Where does career preparation fit?

Maybe we can augment these questions with a broader scope:

  • What do our students need?
  • What do our students want?

With these questions, we form the scope of business continuity planning. Let’s build our undergraduate degrees on a liberal arts foundation with flexibility for parents and students.

We start simply by defining the parameters for “need” and “want.”

Need. 120 credits with 60 credits of “general education.” This is not debatable. Accreditation requires it for most undergraduate non-technical degrees.

Want. Flexibility of design that allows (1) professors to guide content, and (2) students to choose individual options.

Business continuity planning can start with arts and science and business professors sitting down and designing a viable curriculum in terms of needs and wants. Leave their guns and swords outside the room. Work together.

As an example, we can divide the curriculum into four parts:

  • Liberal Arts Foundation. 25% with some student options.
  • General Education. 25% from the arts and sciences.
  • Major Field. 25% in either the liberal arts or business.
  • Second Major Field or Electives. The remaining 25% as student option.

Who’s getting cut off at the knees?

  • Liberal Arts Professors. Not really. They can compete for 75% of the curriculum.
  • Business Professors. Maybe, but they can still stand. They already have crowded upper-division classes.
  • Students. The exact opposite. They are the big-time benefactors as they can play a major role in shaping their college experience to match their goals.
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From this simple foundation, university risk managers can encourage their institutions to survive and prosper while everybody shows a concern for each other in a collaboration of trustees, professors, administrators, students and even parents.

This might also work at cocktail parties. No more boring “risk management” for me.

My new approach will be to discuss highly-interesting topics such as sustainable business models, value chain analysis and business continuity planning.

Won’t my wife will be pleased with that? &

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