Risk Management Professor Focuses on People, Not Just Figures
“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 Petra Steinorth, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Risk Management, Insurance, and Actuarial Science at St. John’s University. “It’s so important to remember the human side of the business.”
Steinorth’s focus on people gives her the opportunity to cover subjects that directly affect her students and their families. Her concern also reflects the mission of St. John’s, a Catholic and Vincentian institution that encourages students to use their education to become critical thinkers and active contributors to society. A recognized leader in the field, the School of Risk Management is a division of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at the University.
In class, Steinorth covers a wide area of different topics that can directly affect the lives of students and their families, such as catastrophic loss, financial security in retirement and challenges in health insurance. “The Affordable Care Act is the big issue in the industry right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of room for debate on the subject, and there’s no one right solution to the issues. I teach students that it’s a real challenge to everyone involved to find a balance between affordability, accessibility and quality health care.”
Originally from Germany, Steinorth came to St. John’s in 2011, having earned her doctoral degree in public economics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen. “Originally, I was a math major in college,” said Steinorth. “But like a lot of people who work in the field, I just fell into insurance.”
Dr. Steinorth particularly enjoys the informal and intimate atmosphere of her classes in risk management, which benefits both student and teacher. “St. John’s students are very engaged,” she said. “My average class size is around 18 students, and because of this, we can have great dialogue. The students get the benefit of one-on-one instruction; and I can accurately gauge who fully understands a new concept and who might need some additional help.”
Even in a challenging economy, the job market is bright for graduates with degrees in risk management, according to Steinorth. “Our students become very comfortable speaking with high-level industry people, since we have many outstanding industry professionals joining us for guest lectures,” she said, adding that “job placement rates of our students are outstanding. Several students have job offers even before they graduate—they’re very well-regarded by the industry.”