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