Skip to main content

School News

A Powerhouse in Her Field, WSB’s Joan Schmit Honored by Risk Management Society

By Wisconsin School of Business

May 5, 2023

Portrait of Professor Joan Schmit in the foyer of WSB

Joan Schmit (BBA ’78, MBA ’79), professor of risk and insurance at the Wisconsin School of Business, is the 2023 recipient of the Harry and Dorothy Goodell Award from RIMS, the risk management society®.

Schmit, American Family Insurance Distinguished Chair in Risk Management and Insurance, was presented with the award at RISKWORLD®, the organization’s annual conference held this year in Atlanta.

The Harry and Dorothy Goodell Award recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of risk management.

“The Goodell award pays tribute to individuals who have furthered the goals of RIMS and the risk management discipline through outstanding service and achievement. I cannot think of anyone who embodies this description better than Joan,” says Christy Kaufman (BBA ’97, MS ’00), vice president of risk management at Zillow, an adjunct faculty member with WSB’s Department of Risk and Insurance, and a global board director with RIMS.

Founded in 1950, the society is the preeminent risk and insurance association. Its 80 chapters serve more than 200,000 risk practitioners and business leaders from more than 75 countries through networking, professional development, certification, advocacy, and research.

“Joan is so deserving of this recognition. Her career accomplishments and contributions in the areas of research, teaching, and outreach—or what we call the Wisconsin Idea—have set the standard to which all faculty should aspire,” says Terry Warfield, PwC Chair in Accounting, and a professor and senior associate dean at WSB.

A career marked by impact and influence

A feature in RIMS’ publication, Risk Management, charts Schmit’s career from its early beginnings in Thiensville, Wisconsin, watching how her father managed his automobile dealership, choosing risk management as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, working as a risk analyst, and ultimately earning her PhD in insurance at Indiana University.

“Often, when students feel uneasy about the path they have taken, wanting to make a difference in the world, I tell them about my dad, who I believe changed quite a few young people’s lives by giving them a chance at the dealership, and demonstrating how the world functions better by being a good human being,” Schmit says in the magazine article.

Schmit arrived at WSB in 1988 as an assistant professor, beginning an academic career with deep impact across campus, community, and industry. A prolific researcher, Schmit’s areas of expertise include insurance regulation, enterprise risk management, and the interaction of law and economics in an insurance and risk management context.

“Her influence extends beyond risk and insurance, through her scholarship in risk management, which informs research in many business disciplines,” says Warfield.

Schmit has published extensively in insurance and legal journals. She serves as the editor of the top-ranked Journal of Risk and Insurance and is a past resident of the American Risk and Insurance Association as well as the Risk Theory Society.

Her career as an instructor has been equally outstanding. She teaches Principles of Risk Management and the graduate-level Advanced Topics in Risk Management.

“Joan is one of the best examples of the best researchers also being the best teachers,” Warfield says. “Her introductory risk management course has served as a valued breadth element in the curricula of many undergraduate and graduate students.”

And giving back to the school, her students, colleagues, and the university is an integral part of her legacy.

Throughout her tenure, Schmit has mentored countless numbers of risk management students and doctoral students, as well as female faculty across all disciplines at WSB. She was given campus’ Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2019, an award that celebrates the often-hidden work of individuals who help women faculty achieve their goals and reach their highest potential at UW–Madison.

A nominating letter for the mentorship award signed by every female WSB faculty member stated, “One permeating theme is how Joan truly cares about people, and how she is unbelievably respectful of individual callings and talents. She does not judge; her focus is always on how to help people realize their own values, and how to help them find ways in which they can authentically contribute to the mission and positive impact of WSB and UW–Madison.”

From 2008 to 2012, Schmit served in the dean’s office as senior associate dean, vice dean, and interim dean. She was the risk department chair three times, most recently from 2014 until 2022. She is also a lead with the cross-disciplinary Creative Destruction Lab-Risk stream, a nonprofit that supports deep-tech startups that are increasing society’s resiliency.

“Joan embodies the essential tenets of servant–leadership as a mentor and ally to many faculty (including me) and through her substantive contributions to the Wisconsin School of Business, UW–Madison, and the broader risk management and business communities,” Warfield says.

Leading the way in risk management and insurance

Schmit has been instrumental in building WSB’s risk management and insurance program, currently the #1 ranked undergraduate risk and insurance program among U.S. universities. It has also been named a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries® and a 2017 Global Center of Insurance Excellence by the International Insurance Society.

Departmental offerings include an undergraduate major in risk management and insurance or actuarial science; a capstone certificate in actuarial science; the full-time MBA specialization in risk management and insurance; and a PhD in actuarial science, risk management, and insurance.

Students benefit from the latest cutting-edge insights and research from the department’s top-ranked faculty, as well as experiential learning and opportunities to engage with industry practitioners and corporate partners. Students graduate prepared to become innovators, leaders, and changemakers in the risk and insurance industry—a true testament to the impact Schmit has made and the legacy her students will carry forward.

“When you look at the body of work and what [Schmit] has created over time—over decades—[that work has] now gone into every different field that affects risk management and pushes our knowledge forward,” says Carl Barlett, WSB’s risk and insurance program director in a RIMS video commemorating Schmit’s Goodell win. “It’s staggering.”

Read the Risk Management story featuring Joan Schmit and watch the video