By Donna Smith | University Communications and Marketing
Between hurricanes, flooding and sinkholes, managing and insuring risk is important for individuals and businesses, especially in Florida. With older, more established employees and executives retiring in greater numbers, this is a time of opportunity for USF students graduating in the risk management and insurance arena, and faculty are working tirelessly to ensure programming aligns with workforce demand.
According to Randy Dumm, director of USF’s Baldwin Risk Partners School of Risk Management and Insurance in the Muma College of Business, USF grads will have a competitive edge thanks to the school’s advisory council – a group of industry professionals that provides leadership and support to ensure that students are successful in the program and post-graduation. In addition to Baldwin Risk Partners, members represent corporations, including Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealthcare and First Watch restaurants.
“While the faculty have a good understanding of the industry, we do not have the level of expertise and experience that our advisory council members have,” Dumm said. “We look to them for the insights that their expertise and experience provide.”
USF has dozens of advisory councils comprised of a diverse array of external partners who typically meet once per semester. They play a pivotal role at USF, bringing their own unique experiences and knowledge to guide the university’s strategic planning, helping to create relevant curriculum, enhance research initiatives and provide professional development opportunities. The model has proved successful in programs like supply chain management, with industry advisors helping programs prepare students for high-paying jobs.
When USF announced expansion of its School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2022, it included not only updated curriculum to reflect post-COVID-19 changes in technology, but also new partnerships that provide hands-on learning opportunities with area hotels and food service providers. Morgan Holmes, executive director of Corporate and Foundation Engagement, said partnerships and curriculum advancements like these are often born from USF’s many advisory councils.
“Corporate voices on our advisory councils give us insight into the evolving needs of the industries our students will enter upon graduation,” Holmes said. “Company feedback is enormously helpful as we seek to ensure that our academic programming remains relevant and our students are well-prepared for the workforce.”
Gizem Kunt, a 2023 hospitality and tourism program graduate, completed a fellowship through USF’s partnership with McKibbon Hospitality, which offers hands-on learning experiences at McKibbon hotel properties. She said she learned a lot about the ins and outs of running a hotel during her time at the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Tampa. She also got job offers.
“Attending classes and then seeing everything in real life gave me an expanded window,” Kunt said. “I was offered a job there when the fellowship was over, but I had another offer for a supervisory position, so I took that.”
Advisory council members choose to serve for different reasons, whether it be to keep a connection to USF – whose graduates they look to hire – or to simply give back to their alma mater, both with their time and philanthropically. Michelle Turman earned her master’s degree at USF in 2000 and now runs her own national firm, Catalyst Consulting Services. She funded a fellowship for students to study abroad in Greece and Italy and previously served on the College of Arts and Sciences advisory council.
“I feel strongly about workforce development, and the College of Arts and Sciences advisory council is watching what’s happening to ensure the continuing value proposition of a degree,” Turman said. “We want to continue adding members who can provide internships or other pathways to employment.”
Liana Fox earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USF, where she also taught mathematics for 15 years. She said her experience as a student and teacher equips her with history and context as she has served on the College of Education advisory council over the past 25 years. Fox also serves on the College of Arts and Sciences advisory council as a sort of liaison between the two colleges.
“The College of Education is working in tandem with the College of Arts and Sciences to ensure that the specialized classes in that college that future educators are taking are stronger than ever, so new teachers are confident in the content they’re teaching in their classrooms,” Fox said. “I think it’s so important for the colleges be connected in some way, and sometimes it’s only by me.”
Fox and her husband, Bob, also fund a scholarship that provides students the opportunity to join an international team that performs excavations and archaeological mapping of sites in Sicily and Greece through the USF Ancient Studies Center. Often, students are invited to council meetings to connect with members, and at a recent advisory council meeting, Fox was able to meet a recipient of the scholarship.
“It’s so wonderful to connect with students,” Fox said. “You’re able to get into more personal conversations about their lives and their plans. They need to hear from people outside the university that they are special and will be sought after when they graduate.”
Fox said that it’s the wide variety of experiences and perspectives that come to the table at advisory council meetings that make them so valuable.
“The deans make the recipes themselves, but we can be a spice in the sauce that can enhance what they’re doing,” Fox said. “So, it's really important to get that advice and feedback from the people who are actually hiring our students.”