by Leigh Ann Henion
Karen Epermanis – or, as her students call her, Dr. E – was nervous when she watched four mentees field questions from risk management professionals at the national Spencer Risk Management Challenge in spring 2015. It was the culmination of a semester’s worth of research. Their assigned task: Analyze company risks and make recommendations for The Walt Disney Corporation.
Epermanis, director of Appalachian State University's Brantley Risk and Insurance Center, was impressed with her students’ knowledge and professionalism. “I could not have done that as an undergraduate,” she said. “I would have fainted up there!”
Epermanis might feel she was a timid undergraduate, but she went on to spend over a decade working for Fortune 500 companies before returning to academia. She made the transition, in part, because she was bored and needed a challenge. But, mostly, she just wanted to help the next generation succeed. “Insurance,” she says, “isn’t going away. And there’s risk in everything we do.”
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that – for a student who wants a post-graduate job – the field is a pretty safe bet.
Under Epermanis’ leadership, the Brantley Center has a 95 percent job placement. “I love working with students and watching them find the path that’s right for them. Then, I get to help them explore it,” she said.
All four of the students who ultimately won the national Risk Management Challenge found jobs within three months of graduating. Epermanis keeps track of their progress. Her ongoing mentorship brings, for students, the peace of mind that insurance potentially brings a policy holder. And, in return, students keep things interesting.
“The program keeps growing. We keep adding new dimensions. Appalachian gives us the opportunity to create new avenues and be challenged,” she said. “There’s really no way to get bored here.”
“Appalachian gives us the opportunity to create new avenues and be challenged.”