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Why Attend a Research-Oriented University?

Risk and Insurance Faculty Impact the Globe with Cutting-Edge Ideas

By Joan Schmit

March 9, 2022

Joan Schmit

Recently the Risk and Insurance department in the Wisconsin School of Business was ranked first for its research output by the 2017-2021 Global Research Rankings of Actuarial Science and Risk Management & Insurance. This is great news for our students.

Now, that is sort of a funny statement, given that most students will never read any of the published papers. Yet it is true. Researchers are on the cutting edge of new ideas, and cannot help but share those ideas in class with their students.

Justin Sydnor, for example, has completed outstanding research on the effect of “nudges” on various healthy habits. Students talk for weeks about his work when he mentions it in class. (Hint: the results are counter-intuitive.) He further has done research on the effects of tiers in the Affordable Care Act, insurance deductibles, and a variety of behavioral questions. Students of his learn of new ideas “hot off the presses” and are hungry for more.

Similarly, Daniel Bauer, director of the Master of Science in Business Analytics, does research at the intersection of actuarial science, quantitative finance, and insurance economics. Importantly, he uses machine learning techniques in his research and teaches machine learning to our students. Among his areas of interest involve issues associated with bias, and opportunities to implement “auditors” of information to limit the influence of such bias in artificial intelligence. As the world becomes more analytically focused, having such expertise right here at the Wisconsin School of Business is a tremendous benefit to all of us–especially our students.

Anita Mukherjee studies vulnerable populations, including identifying opportunities to use microinsurance to alleviate issues associated with poverty, observing the effect of private contracting for prison administration on recidivism, and studying government policies that try to address the opioid crisis. In teaching our undergraduate business analytics course, Professor Mukherjee uses these scenarios as examples, and in the process, teaches our students the latest knowledge about them. She has engaged with our MBA program and talked with our clubs as well, always to standing-room-only crowds, and with more questions than time allows.

Research-focused universities are sometimes more difficult to gain entry and can be slightly more expensive, yet the effort and cost tend to be worth it. Students from these universities learn of new ideas as they are being developed, and sometimes they help faculty create such knowledge or work alongside professors as teaching assistants. We are proud of our latest recognition as a top research program in the world, yet most importantly, we realize we have the opportunity and responsibility to improve the world through our work.

Joan Schmit is the American Family Distinguished Chair in Risk Management and Insurance, and is the Academic Director of the Risk Management and Insurance MBA program.