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Igniting Next Gen: How the University of Nevada, Reno, is Investing in the Next Generation of Insurance Professionals

By Alliant Specialty / February 18, 2022

Universities are investing in curriculums to help students develop knowledge for careers in risk management and insurance. In this episode, Karen Caterino sits down with David Cisneros, Director, Risk Management & Insurance Studies, to hear what the University of Nevada, Reno is doing to stay in step with the industry with its own exciting new program.

Intro (00:01):
You're listening to a special episode of In The Public Eye Podcast, the show dedicated to exploring risk management and topics and challenges faced by today's public sector leaders with your host today, Eric Seaborg.

Eric Seaborg (00:16):
Welcome, everyone. I'm Eric Seaborg with Alliant Insurance Services, along with my co-host and colleague, Karen Caterino.

Karen Caterino (00:23):
Hello everybody, I'm Karen Caterino with Alliant Insurance Services, and today we have David Cisneros, the Director of Risk Management Insurance Studies with the University of Nevada, Reno. He's going to be speaking with us about their exciting new program in the risk management insurance field. David, good afternoon.

David Cisneros (00:40):
Thank you, welcomed to be here.

Eric Seaborg (00:42):
David, it's great to have you join us, start by telling us about the university program that you're involved with. And if you wouldn't mind, give us a little history about how all this got started.

David Cisneros (00:52):
Yeah, so that's a great question. The program was actually started through a generous donation from the Nevada surplus lines association. They had previously given money to our folks down in Southern Nevada at UNLV and they wanted a program at UNR to replicate that. And so there had been numerous talks over the last couple of years now about bringing in a program here at UNR, and it finally was approved by the university by surplus lines were given. And so here I am, they did a big search for someone to run the program, and I was hired back in August of 2021.

Karen Caterino (01:31):
And David, you and I have a shared history of being risk managers and how I initially met you was our work with the risk insurance management society, Northern Nevada chapter that we started. So, tell us a little bit about your background and how you feel that benefits the perspective that you bring to students today.

David Cisneros (01:47):
Yeah, I've been in this insurance industry for 25-plus years. It doesn't seem that long. It seems like it just started sometimes, I was a risk manager for Oracle corporation. I was a risk manager for IGT international game technologies, and I was also a risk manager for Guggenheim enterprises as a food service company and so I have a lot of war stories to tell my students about the topics of what we're reading in our textbooks currently. So, it just seems natural for me to be able to convey what I learned and what I experience and teach that to my students. I really enjoy bringing that peer to Northern Nevada.

Eric Seaborg (02:26):
When I was teaching at a college level, I also found it personally rewarding to be able to give back to education in the hope that the work experiences I gained throughout my career would bring value to the students. And with that said – David, professionally, you'll add value to UNR by bringing your credentials into the classroom and building upon their recruitment efforts. And speaking of the classroom, I want to ask you about a topic that Ken and I talked about on our last episode, and that was the historic lack of minorities and women in the field of risk management. You believe your program will enhance this effort along with helping to support the university of Reno to address classroom discrepancies.

David Cisneros (03:04):
I do. I know that the university here has a very strong commitment for inclusion. In fact, when I was hired during the interview process, that question was brought up, how do you intend or plan to include minorities in your program knowing that the university is supporting that initiative? I think it's going to be a tremendous benefit to me. And then those students that traditionally haven't been involved in risk management of insurance.

Eric Seaborg (03:30):
So, what's your enrollment look like right now in your program, David?

David Cisneros (03:32):
I do know that in several courses, the male-to-female ratio is very well. There are probably three females in one of the courses I'm currently teaching and four in another. And I'd like that to steadily grow for next semester, as far as other diversities, I haven't quite measured that yet, but I hope to and plan to because again, the university is making that push.

Karen Caterino (03:58):
One reason I started this podcast series with Eric was just to create and generate awareness about the field of risk management insurance. I just don't think we always do the best job of selling ourselves and what we get to do every day for a living. It's exciting and rewarding, and you really feel like you're making a difference. So, I think some of those things in terms of diversity initiatives really need to come through that. This isn't just a field for a few. I think it's a very broad field that's available for many, certainly, part of that is businesses and how businesses are engaging with the university and promoting not only the program but also diversity initiatives. So, David, give us some ideas of how you see local businesses, as well as maybe beyond just Reno supporting the program and how your vision and that participation really can make a difference and an impact with the students.

David Cisneros (04:46):
Yeah. So, one of the key measures of the success for my program, was relayed to me by the dean of the college of business is, he says, I'm looking at success as how many students are graduating and being employed in this field. And I'm also looking at a measure of success as to the number of internships that are in utilized. So, I will be reaching out heavily to organizations in this area and even outside the area where, you know, I have employers coming in to talk about opportunities, both as an internship and as a full-time employee and let students pick their path. Because when you talk about risk management and insurance, there's so many pathways, there's a risk manager for the corporation. There's working for the insurance company, and then there's working for a brokerage. Now, of course, there's a TPA route as well if you're interested in claims. So, there are so many avenues, and most students don't know much about those pathways and how great of a career they could have in this industry.

Karen Caterino (05:49):
You know, when you think about, a broker, as an example, we have an early career professional development track here at Alliant. A student at UNR definitely could participate in it. So, I'm sure there are other businesses to your point outside of just Reno, that would definitely have an interest in linking in with the program and doing what they can to support it.

David Cisneros (06:08):
Yeah. I've been contacted by several organizations already and they're ready to support whatever we're putting out. And I'm excited about that. It's just 80 steps at a time and I needed to get the courses approved and then I need to now market the program internally to get the students. And now I'm going to be pushing them out to go get some jobs.

Eric Seaborg (06:26):
And with outside eyes looking inward at your program, that ends up being another excellent recruitment tool for UNR. David, where is the program currently, as it pertains to courses already offered? And what are you envisioning for the near future?

David Cisneros (06:43):
Currently, there's two courses offered in the program this semester. One of them is an introductory course to the program called insurance and risk management. And the second course that's been offered this semester is called corporate risk management. And that talks about what a risk manager actually does. There are two other courses that have been approved that are not being offered this semester but will be next semester in life and health insurance, and then property casualty insurance.

Karen Caterino (07:11):
What would be your advice for students on why they should select risk management insurance, part of either a major, minor, or field to study.

David Cisneros (07:19):
This is where I get to figure out how to sell the program and try to make it sexy and interesting and not make it drab. Like historically has sounded I'm going to sell it, the way I try to sell it to my own children is like, look at how many opportunities I've had to travel, opportunities to have a work-life balance. And from a challenging standpoint, the position was never boring. There was always something that was challenging my brain. Like, how do I fix this? Or how do I solve this problem? I think that, coupled with you can make a very good living in this industry, will be an easy sell. I just have to be able to get in front of a student and share that with them. And once I do cause their interest level will arise.

Karen Caterino (08:02):
Yeah. I agree with you too. You know, I think, probably like you, we both went into risk management with a mindset of being a problem solver, right? Every day seems like you're fixing something or either you're ensuring for it, you’re contractually risk transferring it, or you're just trying to help somebody with a claim and making a difference. And from that aspect, it's really rewarding. And I think our next generation, that's something that's really important to them. When they look at a career it's not, how much do I make? Usually, the questions I get from students that are interested in the field are, you know, what's the culture like, how do you help people, what do you do? So maybe appealing to that side. And then of course, you know, even my own daughter always looks at me and says, mom, I'm still not really sure what you do for a living.
For going and meeting people, you know, at conferences and doing fun things together. You know, she doesn't quite understand what that all means. But it's just such an important facet. I think of the work we do and how we connect with people and network with people and certainly in our own jobs and roles, help people. I do think in insurance, there are ways for us to be more efficient and the engineering mindsets of our youth and there on entrepreneurial thinking and how to leverage computers and social media really can help all of us even be better. Do you see some of that too, David, with the implementation of IoT to technology and not just thinking about risk management and insurance, as much as, how can we leverage some of their mindsets?

David Cisneros (09:32):
One of my classes yesterday, we had a spirited debate about the use of technology and how we communicate with others. And one of the students said, well, you know, I prefer to communicate via text message. And from what you're saying, I think the insurance side and risk management side can benefit by just using text messages to communicate. And I pause because I prefer a well-worded email over a text message, but students today, they're all about speed. They want to be able to, to utilize technology, to communicate and get approvals and, and, and just do business.

Karen Caterino (10:08):
And think about it. It's not just a communication style, but they're purchasing style. Who wants to call an agent and get insurance when they could go on a mobile app? How can we make that even more efficient? There's a lot of possibilities of how they communicate and purchase and, and certainly opportunities for us in our field to do that better as well.

David Cisneros (10:26):
I had to change my mindset on that because I guess I'm old school. I want to see the document in my hand, and I want a well-worded email, but really, you don't need that.

Karen Caterino (10:35):
Anything else David, you'd like to share with us?

David Cisneros (10:37):
As my students right now, we'll go through the lesson plan and we'll talk about what the chapter wants you to know, but they want to know what I did and that's going to bring their interest level to go into the industry.

Karen Caterino (10:50):
Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today to share the great story of UNR and its investment and risk management insurance. And we really appreciate your time on the podcast today. David, thanks so much.

David Cisneros (11:01):
Oh, you're more than welcome. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Outro (11:05):
Thank you for listening. And for more information, visit us at


Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal advice or legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal advisor or ask Alliant Insurance Services for a referral. This document is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.

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