A Look Back at the Annual Conference Through Newcomers’ Eyes


Learn how attending the annual conference impacted these higher ed risk managers

Five of the 15 professional scholarship recipients for the 2023 annual conference

Five of the professional annual conference scholarship recipients from left: Nai St. Andrew, Derrick Sawyer, Leslie-Ann Campbell, Marlo Cookston, and Alicia Bond. Not pictured: David Armanini, Marvette Facey-Thompson, Kelly Foster, Melissa Holloway, Lisa Palazzo, Nels Pate, Bianca Schonberg, and Ben Schultheis.                                                                                                                                                                                        

A Conference Experience Like No Other

Thirteen professional risk managers were awarded a scholarship to attend their first URMIA Annual Conference in September and they walked away with knowledge and network additions that can be utilized immediately. Read on to find out what their takeaways were and why they would suggest others apply for funds to attend the 55th Annual Conference in New Orleans (Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2024).

From an Overall Conference Perspective

Nels Pate, director of risk management & insurance at Bethune-Cookman University, shared his experience: “The information that I received from the various sessions helped me to become more focused in identifying risks on my campus. It was also very encouraging to network with so many experienced risk managers who showed that they are willing to assist you if you have questions.”

“The most valuable part of the conference experience is simply knowledge acquisition,” said Bianca Schonberg, executive director, education abroad and scholar services at the University of Houston, Clear Lake. “I found value in gaining new knowledge and insights related to risk management – specifically global risk management. Lastly, building professional connections and networking with peers and industry experts was valuable. I hope this opportunity may lead to collaboration opportunities, mentorship, and/or career advancement."

And Then It Hit Me

“One “ah-ha” moment for me,” shared Derrick Sawyer II, associate vice president, budgets, business services & risk manager at the Community College of Philadelphia, “was during the small sessions and listening to challenges and obstacles that other similar colleges and universities face as it relates to risk management issues on their campus. It helped me to realize that I was not alone and that I had a network of peers that is willing to share information and collaborate on ideas. It also helped me to understand the importance of the URMIA network.”

Lisa Palazzo, university chief compliance and privacy officer at Case Western Reserve University, took away an idea to implement back on campus. “My "ah-ha" moment was that I and my team (the central compliance office) should proactively seek more ways to share information with other university units so that those units have more full context in their decision-making.”

What Future Potential Scholarship Applicants Need to Know

“In my role as general counsel, I have oversight for these [risk management] areas, but my professional connections are currently more aligned with the legal community working in this space. Although many URMIA members are attorneys, I was able to attend sessions presented from a very different perspective,” said Melissa Holloway, general counsel at North Carolina A&T State University.

University of Kansas’ Ben Schultheis, insurance & risk program manager, commented: “Because of the variety of courses, [representatives from] institutions of all sizes and compositions, and open, friendly attendees, I think anyone would be able to have a positive, productive, and fun experience. Often university risk management can seem like a lonely island, but URMIA is proof that is not the case and that a great group of professionals are out there waiting to welcome you into an experienced and supportive network.”

David Armanini, executive director of risk management & insurance at Rochester Institute of Technology, summed it up by saying, “There are so many benefits to attending the URMIA conference and it will greatly assist risk managers with their career/job responsibilities. The networking and the presentation content is top notch!”

Scholarship Sponsors

The opportunity to provide scholarships to risk management professionals to attend the URMIA Annual Conference for the first time would not be possible without the generous support of several sponsors for 2023 including: Bob McCloskey Insurance, FM Global, Gallagher, Guarantee Trust Life, Marsh, McGriff, Munich Re, and proceeds from the annual conference raffle. (The 2023 raffle raised $4,312...thank you to everyone who donated items and purchased raffle tickets onsite.) In addition, URMIA's leadership invested additional funds to award twice as many scholarships as originally planned for 2023.


By URMIA Staff

Insights Home