Insurance professor Chris Utterback leads the new Center for Insurance and Business Management program

Professor Chris Utterback pictured in the Lee Business School atrium. Photo provided by Chris Utterback

UNLV established the Kerestesi Center for Insurance and Risk Management within the Lee Business school, thanks to a $5 million gift from Nevada Surplus Lines foundation. During their regular quarterly meeting, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) approved the creation of the center. 

The program aims to increase the demand of professionals, with a large emphasis on new college graduates seeking flexible work dynamics and balance with career entry. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current insurance workforce is set to retire within the next 15 years. The need for young, qualified insurance professionals has never been higher. 

At the center of the program is affiliate professor Chris Utterback, who holds more than 40 years of experience within the insurance industry and helped establish the risk management and insurance minor at the Lee Business School. 

“We need to do this. This has to be done. The students, UNLV and the industry are a triangle that everyone needs because they’re great careers and we need to broaden this program,” Utterback said.

A major aspect of the new program is the ability for students within the program to form industry partnerships and conduct various levels of research. The center will include collaborations with leading insurance firms and offer hands-on internships designed to connect the classroom to the real world.

“I teach a class on Wednesday night, where the vast majority of the grade is around the eight -team research project. In fact, it’s a competition around risk management, which is a fairly new concept, but the old risk management was around what we call pure risk. They [teams] get to pick a publicly traded company,” Utterback clarified. 

“They dive in and they have to research, with each project having credibility within their findings and presenting them. I have risk managers from the Strip, who are all VPs of risk management, they’re the judges. But there can be other opportunities as we expand the program.”

With a large emphasis placed on connecting students to the outside world, Utterback emphasized the need to incorporate professional application to students as a way for them to familiarize themselves with the work dynamic. Integration of industry leaders give students an extra degree of understanding regarding insurance knowledge application and use.  

“We’ve already put two 300-level classes in the cooler,” Utterback continued. “We’re not going to do them anymore because we’re going to place them in classes where if a student gets a ‘B’ or better, they get a waiver for professional designations.”

“We can structure our curriculum to limit the size because we want our instructors to really get to know the students. They can help them and do that kind of stuff. It’s a tough curriculum, but hopefully, it’s a good first step.”

The new center prides itself on allowing students to apply themselves in the classroom and translate those skills into practical applications within the insurance industry. Utterback described his vision for the new program going forward: “Make students aware and take advantage of unbelievable employment opportunities. I think that’s the biggest one!”


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