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An Advocate for Women: WSB Professor Joan Schmit Receives 2019 Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring

By Betsy Lundgren

November 11, 2019

Professor Joan Schmit stands for a portrait in Grainger Hall
WSB’s Joan Schmit is the recipient of the 2019 Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Photo by Paul L. Newby II

Joan Schmit, American Family Insurance Distinguished Chair of Risk Management at the Wisconsin School of Business, is the recipient of the 2019 Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring, an award created to celebrate the often hidden work of individuals who help women faculty achieve their goals and reach their highest potential at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Schmit was nominated for the award by the entirety of women faculty at WSB, as noted in the nomination letter: “The very fact that every WSB women faculty, from emerita to assistant professor, is joining in this nomination speaks to the pervasiveness and impact of Joan’s mentoring both across time and business disciplines.”

Schmit has served on the WSB faculty since 1988. She is currently chair of WSB’s Department of Risk and Insurance, a position she has held several times previously over the past two decades. From 2008 to 2012, Schmit served in the Dean’s office, holding the positions of senior associate dean, vice dean, and interim dean. She also serves as faculty director for the Wisconsin MBA specialization in Risk Management and Insurance and sits on many governance committees.

She has published extensively in insurance and legal journals, with areas of expertise including insurance regulation, enterprise risk management, and the interaction of law and economics in an insurance and risk management context. She is a past president of the American Risk and Insurance Association as well as the Risk Theory Society. Additionally, Schmit serves as editor for the Journal of Risk and Insurance and is active in the International Insurance Society.

The nominating faculty recognized Schmit as a tireless advocate for female faculty, noting not only the impressive quantity of what she does as a mentor, but also how she approaches her role.

“The sheer amount of things that Joan does already propel her into an entirely different sphere of mentoring excellence. Adding to this is how she does the many things she does,” reads the nomination letter. “Gracious, selfless, giving, wise, tough minded, respectful, empathetic, accepting, non-judgmental, approachable, thoughtful, nurturing, generous, engaged, supportive, encouraging, proactive, and extraordinary are a few of the terms, in no particular order, that repeatedly appear in our descriptions of Joan.”

Schmit is noted for her support of female faculty on both a personal and professional manner, and is celebrated as a mentor who champions individuals for who they are.

“One permeating theme is how Joan truly cares about people, and how she is unbelievably respectful of individual callings and talents,” the letter continues. “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. In a world where many feel pressures to conform, feeling valued and being heard not despite of one’s idiosyncrasies but because of them is enormously empowering. Joan’s mentoring allows people to hold their head up high because of who they are.”

About the Award

The Slesinger Award, facilitated by UW–Madison’s Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, was named for and first presented to Doris Slesinger, professor emerita of rural sociology (now community and environmental sociology), in 1998. Twenty-five recipients have been honored since that time.

Schmit will receive the 2019 award on Monday, November 25 at the Women Faculty Mentoring Program’s reception for newly promoted and tenured women.

Schmit is joined in winning this year’s award by Beth Meyerand, associate chair of graduate advising and biomedical engineering and professor of medical physics. Additional nominees this year include Laura Schechter, professor, economics; Xinyu Zhao, professor, neuroscience; and John Zumbrunnen, professor and chair, political science.

Previous Slesinger Award winners from WSB are Margie Rosenberg, Assurant Health Professor in Actuarial Science and Michael E. Lehman Distinguished Chair for Inspired Learning in Business, and Anne Miner, emeritus professor of management and human resources.