Master-ing her craft: Spencer Scholar Jenna Herr


After receiving a Spencer Scholarship, Jenna Herr of Centerville, Iowa was able to leave her full time job in order to fully devote herself to the pursuit of her MBA in Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she will graduate in May 2019. The scholarship allowed her to focus more fully on her coursework and on networking with fellow students and industry professionals. Here is our Q&A with her:

Q: How did you become interested in Risk Management & Insurance as a major and career?Lots of career choices are made by encountering an inspiring professor. As an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, Ty Leverty's (then an Associate Professor at the University of Iowa, now an Associate Professor of Risk and Insurance at The University of Wisconsin-Madison) knowledge and passion for risk management and insurance made his courses some of my favorites. After graduation, I worked in a different industry, which strengthened my appreciation for risk management and its role in our economy. When I decided to return to school for a master's degree, I looked exclusively at risk and insurance graduate programs.

Spencer Scholar Jenna Herr talks about how she gains additional industry knowledge and understanding through her mentor.

Q: What are your plans following graduation and what are your long-term career aspirations?
I hope to get hired into a full-time role in insurance, perhaps in an analytics-related role, that will allow me to grow as a leader and eventually manage a team.

Q: What classes are you taking this semester, which is your favorite and what “AHA!” moment(s) did you have this semester?
One of my favorite classes is a seminar in which we discuss current topics in risk management. One of my "aha" moments from the past semester was actually about a soft skill: risk managers must be able to influence people over whom they have no direct authority--that's a leadership skill that I've been developing.

Q: Outside of classes, what are you doing?
Outside of classes, I serve as co-president of the Graduate Women in Business student organization because I'm passionate about growing women leadership in the highest levels of business. I'm proud that the insurance industry is rising to the occasion and trying to attract diverse talent to leadership roles.

Q: How can the risk management & insurance industry attract more young people to the major and eventually careers in the industry?
I think overall the industry is doing a good job getting out in front of young people and inspiring them to pursue careers in insurance. My best advice is to never say the words "insurance is boring," --even jokingly--because it's not!

Q: Based on what you have learned and experienced so far, as you start your career, where do you see the biggest changes taking place in the industry over the next few years?
I think increased transparency between businesses and consumers will have the greatest impact on the industry. More tech companies are entering and trying to perform insurance functions, which is compelling conventional players to evolve.

Q: If you could have a conversation with any risk management and insurance industry leader, who would it be with and what would you like to learn?
I recently listened in on a speaker series featuring Alessa Quane, executive vice president and chief risk officer at AIG, and she provided some excellent thoughts on the future of the insurance industry as well as some great tips for being a good leader. If I had an opportunity to talk with her one-on-one, I'd want to know more about her thought process as she informs AIG's strategy. I'd want to pick up some professional development tips from her too.

Q: How has receiving a Spencer Scholarship made a difference for you this year.
I left my job and decided to go back to school full-time so I could focus not only on the coursework, but also on making connections within the industry. The Spencer Scholarship provides me the financial support to do that, and the foundation has also helped me make connections with industry leaders, so I feel like I've been "adopted" into the industry.

Q: Favorite quote
"So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune." -Ruth Bader Ginsburg



Jayde Lim

2017 Spencer Scholar
Temple University

I am very far from home. I’m from Mauritius. It takes me two days to get home. I’m very proud and happy to stand before you today. My parents are both insurance agents in Mauritious. When I was a child I remember watching my dad input information into a computer program and then had the rates calculate. I wondered how the computer did that. I’ve always been interested in numbers and statistics. As I grew older, I realized I wanted to be an actuary.

Receiving the Spencer scholarship was a great relief. It’s allowed me to focus on my academics and pre-professional development. I was able to cut down my hours with my tutoring job, and take a position as an officer with our Gamma Iota Sigma chapter. I’m forever grateful to all the donors for making this scholarship possible.

James Pappas

2017 Spencer Scholar
St. John’s University

Entering senior year of high school I was extremely unsure of what college to attend. I felt I’d never find my purpose. One night while talking with my mom, she told a story about my grandma that made me realize how insurance helps during hard times. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be part of an industry that made a difference. I started to look at schools that offered risk and insurance programs and found St. John’s University.

I am now confident, optimistic, and energized about my future. I know I’m entering a good industry. Spencer has relieved financial burden of college expenses and allowed me to focus on academics and professional growth. I have learned so much through my internship experiences at XL Catlin, and am excited for my career as an underwriter. As I move forward, I have a plan, and thanks to Spencer, I am prepared to meet the challenges.

Nicholas D’Orazio

2017 Spencer Scholar
St. Joseph’s University

Four years ago I didn’t know the insurance industry existed, but I had a passion for mathematics. During my freshman year, my Intro to Finance professor encouraged me to study insurance and risk management. Past Spencer Scholars got me involved in Spencer. I attended my first RIMS conference and was hooked. I was determined to be a Spencer Scholar and participate in the Spencer/RIMS Risk Management Challenge. In my senior year, I was leader of the St. Joseph’s challenge team. Our team was from diverse career paths. We placed analytics at our core, and we won.

The scholarship I received from Spencer has truly relieved the financial burden of attending college and allowed me to afford study materials for my actuarial exams. Being a Spencer Scholar also exposed me to some of the top professionals in the industry. It’s given me confidence that I have the ability to not just be an actuary, but to be a leader in this industry.