Illinois State University’s insurance school has been ranked among the best programs in the nation for preparing students for insurance careers. Illinois State was one of only four universities to be recognized as “Top Performers” in the February issue of A.M. Best’s insurance news magazine, Best’s Review.
“When the premier insurance rating agency in the country ranks our insurance program among the top four in the U.S., we have reached an elevated level of national and international visibility,” College of Business Dean Ajay Samant said. “This high visibility attracts recruiters from the finest insurance companies in the country and helps our students attain enviable job placements. The outstanding quality of the program translates into great career trajectories for our students.”
Illinois State received high marks for its strong connections to insurance companies and for graduating students who quickly adapt to the industry. The University enrolls about 200 students in its risk management and insurance program within the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services. The University’s undergraduate program was ranked No. 11 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 2017 and has been recognized as the fourth largest insurance program in the country.
The latest honor was especially rewarding because it came from the industry, Katie School Director Jim Jones said. “It recognized something that we always suspected was true. It was interesting that it seemed to be fairly clear the universities that were Top Performers had the industry connections. I think that’s one of our distinguishing features. Students leave here knowing where they will be most valuable quickly.”
The Katie School’s connections to the industry were critical to Illinois State alumnus Doug Johnson’s career development and choice. It was during a second internship, facilitated by the Katie School, with insurance and reinsurance companies in Switzerland that he decided to switch his plans from primary insurance to reinsurance.
During the internship, Johnson job-shadowed at five companies and learned about underwriting for infrastructure risks and building projects. He now works as a vice president and regional property treaty underwriter at Munich Reinsurance America in Princeton, New Jersey.
“I’m very grateful for the education and the experience,” said Johnson ’10, who was a Bone Scholar at Illinois State. “The Katie School is very focused not only on the classroom learning piece but is also focused on practical experience within the industry.”
Best’s Review used a two-part evaluation to determine which universities do the best job of preparing students for the risk management and insurance industry. The magazine conducted an online survey of 272 industry professionals and interviews with hiring managers and human resources professionals responsible for recruiting college students at the 28 largest carriers and brokerages. The interviews were given double the weight as the survey results.
The magazine specifically noted that the Katie School has a full-time staff member, Associate Director Debbie Babcock, dedicated to connecting students to industry professionals, coordinating internships, and assisting career placement. “The key to our success is to create as many ‘touch points’ with industry as possible including internships, conference and industry participation, professional mentors, on-campus speakers, student-industry research projects, industry workshops, and company visits,” Jones told the magazine.
Illinois State alumna Erin Corbin ’05 said the Katie School offers regular networking opportunities and develops students’ soft skills like oral and written communication. “I thought that really helped me understand what it was like in the working world. Students come out of the school with so much more than just a book education.”
Corbin is now a senior business analyst at State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington. The Fortune 50 company maintains close ties to the Katie School and the College of Business.
Corbin credited the faculty and staff at the Katie School for the insurance program’s success and latest recognition. “It is really obvious that it is not just a job to them. They really care about the students and their place in the industry.”
Kevin Bersett can be reached at kdberse@IllinoisState.edu.