Risk management and insurance program grows, focuses on ‘quality, not quantity’

The university’s Brantley Risk and Insurance Center in Walker’s College of Business has improved its national rank from sixth to fifth this year.

The program had 67 graduates last year, which is 14 more people than the previous year, according to the Walker College of Business website.

Karen Epermanis is the director of the Brantley Risk & Insurance Center program and an associate professor of fiance.

“We are training our students to enter into…the insurance market place,” Epermanis said. “Our job is to train them academically, but also get them ready for the workforce. Through the Brantley Center we’re able to offer our students things that other schools don’t.”

Those opportunities include travel opportunities to conferences and the career fair the Brantley Center holds twice a year, Epermanis said.

The interactions students have with professionals while attending Appalachian helps the professional success of students after graduation, Dean of Walker College of Business Randy Edwards said.
“Insurance professionals see Appalachian students as being well-prepared and top candidates for any job that they might have available,” Edwards said.

The Brantley Center is within the university but is externally funded, Epermanis said.

All of its funding comes from private and corporate donors, like Liberty Mutual and other companies, Epermanis said.

“We’re getting better quality students; we’re also getting better quality employers,” Epermanis said.
However, it’s not likely the program will grow extensively in the next few years due to the size of the university, Edwards said.

“With our current faculty, we can get a little bit bigger, but not much,” Epermanis said.

The center was founded in 1988 by the Independent Insurance Agent of North Carolina, and named after Richard S. Brantley who worked with the Independent Insurance Agent for 36 years.

David Wood has been with the university since 1985. He has served as the Director of the Brantley Center and is now a professor in the Walker College of Business.

“Our emphasis is on quality more than quantity, and the fact that we’ve grown to this size is great but that’s not our objective,” Wood said. “Our objective is to turn out the very best students and prepare our students to be successful.”

Junior risk management and insurance major Kaitlyn Elliot said that the Brantley Center was instrumental in helping her earn an internship with Liberty Mutual which she interviewed for following the career fair held last spring.

“[The RMI program] is so successful because of the professors we have,” Elliott said. “They go above and beyond from what’s in the classroom.”

Story: Joshua Farmer, Intern News Reporter