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Celebrating Community

By Rail Minazetdinov

May 18, 2023

Joan Schmit addressing the audience in front of a table of panelists and a thank you slide overhead

Risk Management and Insurance alumni were invited back to Madison on May 5 to celebrate the long-standing and strong community they all have been involved in creating. The occasion was to mark Joan Schmit’s retirement from teaching, yet she made certain to acknowledge those who came before her and those who will follow her. Being part of Joan’s last graduating class, it was a fascinating experience to meet previous graduating classes and listen to their stories from both their academic and professional journeys.

Rail Minazetdinov
Rail Minazetdinov

Joan’s lifelong aspiration was to educate and share knowledge with others, and she seized this opportunity to enlighten the audience with a celebration of the risk and insurance community, focusing on emerging topics in the industry. The event was comprised of three panels featuring industry professionals and students.

The first panel consisted of a recent graduate from UW-Madison’s MBA program, a close friend of Joan from her first university in South Carolina, and an experienced Risk Manager with a long career history. They engaged in a thought-provoking discussion on the significance of decision-making in risk management and the corporate world. This topic was particularly interesting as it closely aligned with the content covered in one of the most popular student courses, Risk Analytics and Decision Making.

The second panel included Christy Kaufman, an enthusiastic supporter of our program who currently serves as a Risk Manager at Zillow Corporation, a professor from a university in North Texas, and an experienced Risk Manager. They discussed the importance of technology and data in risk management, with a particular focus on artificial intelligence and its potential to shape the corporate world and professions in the future. The general consensus was that artificial intelligence would play a significant role in supporting human decision-making by providing accurate data analytics and predictions.

The final panel showcased talented current students from UW-Madison, including a recent winner of the RIMS National Risk Challenge competition. The four participating ladies truly showed the bright future of risk management, demonstrating intelligence, confidence, and a wealth of knowledge. They shared their experiences during their time at school and discussed their expectations for their future careers. Importantly, they offered valuable advice to the audience, many of whom were leaders in their companies, encouraging them to foster creativity and provide younger generations with the freedom to fully embrace their potential and discover their true value to the company.

All three panels addressed crucial topics, and the discussions were enjoyed by all participants–and people were having fun. That was important because as Joan always emphasizes, it is critically important to have fun at work and school. Joan delivered her final speech, connecting each panel participant to something that held great significance to her, such as students, the university, professors, her husband, industry professionals, and extracurricular clubs. With nearly 150 supportive guests in attendance, the audience listened to Joan’s speech with smiles on their faces, feeling a deep connection to the program. It was a truly exceptional finale to honor a person who dedicated her life to the success of this program.