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Focusing on Fairness, Distinguished Chair Prepares Insurance Leaders of Tomorrow

Though he was in the midst of a rewarding, 21-year career in higher education at a midwestern university, Mark Browne, Ph.D., didn’t think twice about accepting an invitation to become part of St. John’s faculty.

“New York City is the center of the universe for insurance and business, and The School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science is arguably one of the top programs in the world,” said Dr. Browne, who joined the University in 2013. “St. John's offered me an excellent position with the opportunity to make a positive impact.”

Today, as the Robert Clements Distinguished Chair in Risk Management and Insurance, Dr. Brown is a driving force at the School, also known by its initials, SRM. Yet he still finds himself explaining the sometimes misunderstood industry to others. “When most people hear the word ‘insurance,’ they think, ‘I want to go to sleep now,’” he said. “But once you dig a little deeper, it becomes fascinating—you’re dealing with life and death or someone’s financial well-being.”

Helping Others Back on Their Feet

A division of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s, SRM cultivates excellence in a field that has fascinated Dr. Brown since his undergraduate days at the University of Pennsylvania. “I was originally a business student at The Wharton School,” he said. “I learned that insurance touches on all aspects of business, so I really appreciated the breadth of the topic and decided to explore it.”

When disasters strike, insurers are often among the first responders to a site, providing financial assistance and other aid to policy holders. “As I tell my students,” said Dr. Brown, “when you help someone get back on his or her feet, you’ve got the chance to do some real good. That part of the industry is very gratifying and consistent with the Mission of St. John’s.”

He also professes that fairness should be the heart of every decision future insurers make. “The ultimate goal of the insurer is to treat everybody fairly,” he commented. “That means giving people who file claims the amount they are due—no more and no less.”

A Bright Future

According to Dr. Brown, the career outlook is quite promising for graduates of the program—especially, he adds, due to the efforts of the Ellen Thrower Center for Apprenticeship and Career Services. “It’s an insurance industry-funded program that helps place our students in internships and professional positions,” he said. “Their placement rate is just phenomenal: if it’s not 100 percent, it’s close to it.”

Dr. Browne is proud of his students for their hard work, in and out of class at St. John’s Manhattan campus. “I have so much respect for their diligence and the challenges a lot of them overcome in order to earn an education,” he said. “Their enthusiasm and insights make it a joy to engage with them.”

Bearing witness to student success, Dr. Brown noted, is one of his favorite aspects of the job. “It's particularly rewarding to see them do well,” he remarked. “They graduate and then a couple of years later you hear that they’re thriving. It gives you a great feeling—that’s what it’s all about.”