It’s commonly joked that the Midwest has two seasons: winter and construction. Risk Management and Insurance MBA’s know, however, that planning and financing construction projects happens year-round—especially for companies like United Airlines that complete hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects each year. This year’s Applied Learning Consulting Project, working hand-in-hand with United Airlines’ Risk Management and Corporate Insurance team (led by Managing Director of Risk Management, Andy Nottestad, BBS ’88) was a prime illustration of that.
Each year, the Risk Management and Insurance MBA students undertake a consulting project with an outside firm to recommend new opportunities or improvements in the company’s risk management processes. It is of mutual benefit to the companies and students who participate because projects are never made up for the purpose of the class—they must involve a real risk management problem the company wants to evaluate. Together, MBA students write a job description and interview candidates to bring undergraduate analysts onto the project. Students and the company benefit from a team with a diversity of backgrounds including finance, actuarial science, computer science, risk management, and more. The project itself delivers an opportunity for all students to apply coursework in a business setting, and it offers MBAs an opportunity to practices management skills as well.
Often the Applied Learning Consulting Project involves a specialized area of risk management and insurance (last year’s project involved captive feasibility), so to formulate recommendations, the team synthesizes from many conversations with external stakeholders and partners. We engaged some of the largest and best construction management companies, insurance brokers, risk managers, and real estate project managers. In fact, when we traveled to London in the spring, the global experience was a complement to our applied learning work as well as our other classroom experience. Together, we tackled a variety of topics applicable within and outside of construction risk management. Our goals were to build on United Airlines’ risk-aware culture, communicate the risk-aware culture externally to contractors and other construction partners, and to recommend risk management financing opportunities for United Airlines to explore. We investigated topics such as requests for proposals, bidding, controlled insurance programs, builders’ risk and property insurance, surety bonds, general liability, aviation risk, airside auto liability, and more.
The project concluded with a trip to United Airlines’ corporate headquarters in Chicago. We toured the network operations center, met with the talent acquisition team, and delivered a presentation of final recommendations to senior managers. As MBA’s (and BBA’s) entering the job market, we have unique industry experience and management acumen to draw on through applied learning consulting. We are grateful for the opportunity and know it will benefit United Airlines and UW Risk Management students for many years to come.