“So much of our work in insurance is about numbers and profitability, but I always remind my students that the industry is really about helping people manage their risks,” said...
W. Jean Kwon
Professor W. Jean Kwon, Ph.D. loves New York
There’s good reason why the Korean-born professor at St. John’s University’s School of Risk Management has such an affinity for the Big Apple: “I have never seen another city with this many insurance companies in one location. Not Philadelphia, not Boston…not even London,” says Dr. Kwon, who has more than 30 years of experience teaching risk management and insurance in the U. S. and abroad.
“We have a long history and very strong ties to the industry,” he says of the School which was originally founded by The Insurance Society of New York in 1901 and merged with St. John’s in 2001. “Every insurance company in New York has graduates of this school. The opportunity for networking is very strong.” As a result, Kwon has observed that graduates of the School of Risk Management, a division of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, quickly find jobs upon graduation.
Each summer, Kwon lectures overseas where he often must work to change the mindset of students to encourage them to ask questions in class. It’s a problem he doesn’t encounter in New York City at St. John’s, since in his experience, “St. John’s students are metropolitan, diverse and very outgoing.”
An alumnus of St. John’s, Dr. Kwon can often be found among current students in one of his favorite Manhattan campus destinations, the famed Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library. “The library here is the best one,” he proclaims, and with good reason. With more than 220,000 volumes — some dating back to 1569 — The Davis Library houses the largest risk management and insurance collection in the world. Not surprisingly, the library is a vital resource for students, faculty members and professionals throughout the region.
In his former position as chairman of the department, Dr. Kwon was responsible for ensuring that graduates of the esteemed program are well-prepared to meet the needs of an ever-changing industry. “My students are my investment,” he says. “We’re focusing on helping students build a strong foundation…so that when they enter the job market or move to another company, the move isn’t such challenge.”
“For the faculty, the real challenge is keeping ahead of the developments in the industry. In the 1990s, we were talking about insurance matters taking place within the insurance industry. These days, we talk about insurance matters within the financial services sector, too. We’re constantly revising our syllabi and curricula to keep in line with the changes in the local and global economies.”
Active in the field outside of the classroom, Dr. Kwon’s is especially proud of two major accomplishments: the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Risk and Insurance Association (APRIA) in 1997 and the creation of the World Risk and Insurance Economics Congress (WRIEC), a once-in-five year academic forum. He has also written several books, including Risk Management and Insurance: Perspectives in a Global Economy, which he co-authored with Harold D. Skipper. The book is currently used by professors in 15 countries. He also offers consulting services and special lectures for governments, as well as other public and private entities in the U.S. and abroad.
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