USC Gets Major Gift To Transform Risk Management Program

USC Marshall is aiming to have the top risk management program on the U.S. West Coast. USC photo

When you think of the top risk management business programs, the first that come to mind are probably based on the East Coast or in the Midwest. But that may be about to change.

Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, Chicago Booth School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business all offer leading courses, certificates, or specialized master’s degrees — and sometimes all three! — in risk management, a growing business sector that uses data to identify and assess risks and develop controls and insurance solutions to minimize their impact. Other schools boast even deeper investments in the field, like The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, whose Risk Management and Decision Processes Center was established nearly 40 years ago. Well-regarded online programs also proliferate, from the University of Washington to Georgetown to Indiana University.

Today (August 16) the list of premier risk management programs got another member. With a transformational gift from one of the biggest names in the insurance game, USC Marshall School of Business will rename and significantly grow its existing program with the goal of becoming the top risk management center on the U.S. West Coast.


Peter Arkley, president of Alliant Retail Property and Casualty

At a time when companies are acknowledging that data-driven risk analysis is one of the most important investments they can make, the insurance industry is facing a huge shortage of professionals, as nearly half of the industry workforce is expected to retire within the next 15 years. “USC Marshall’s newly named Peter Arkley Institute for Risk Management,” the school announced, “was created to solve this looming problem.”

Arkley, currently president of Retail Property & Casualty, Alliant Insurance Services Inc., is the former president of Alliant Specialty Group, the eighth largest insurance brokerage firm in the world. In 2018, he and a group of Southern California risk management professionals approached USC Marshall about launching a program in what became, in the school’s description, “a groundbreaking collaboration between industry and university.” Housed within the Marshall School, the risk management program is open to all USC undergraduates, and more than 25 different majors are currently represented in the minor program.

Arkley subsequently sat on the program’s Advisory Council. Inspired by the program’s success — and recognizing that the next generation of young insurance professionals will need new skillsets, particularly data analytics — Arkley has given a major gift to the Marshall School to transform the risk management program into an institute.

“I have enjoyed an incredibly fulfilling career working with exceptional people and feel fortunate to be in a position to give back to the industry that has given me so much,” Arkley said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “I encourage, even challenge, everyone to consider a career in insurance. The doors to the insurance universe are wide open.”


USC Marshall did not announce the amount of the gift but announced that it will underwrite scholarships and graduate fellowships and help attract leading scholars, establishing two Peter Arkley Faculty Chairs in Risk Management and the Peter Arkley Executive Director in Risk Management.

“I am honored that the Arkley Institute for Risk Management will expand the education, training, mentorship, and internship opportunities for USC students that lead not merely to good full-time jobs, but to excellent life changing careers in the risk management field,” Arkley says. “I am grateful for the commitment and collaboration that has happened the last four years with members of the advisory council who have supported the program. I look forward to continuing to work alongside them as we build the Institute.”

The Arkley Institute for Risk Management will place USC Marshall among the finest risk management programs in the U.S. while establishing it as the premier risk management program on the West Coast, Marshall Dean Geoff Garrett says.

“Peter’s generous gift is truly visionary,” said Marshall Dean Geoff Garrett. “As a veteran of this industry, he sees a future where risk assessment and management drive strategy at the world’s most important organizations. His support of our program is an incredible vote of confidence in Marshall’s ability to educate the future leaders of this essential field.”

Marshall’s investment in risk management education comes at a key time, says Kristen Jaconi, associate professor of the practice in accounting and director of the risk management program.

“Over the past few years, Covid, supply chain challenges, and geopolitical uncertainty have driven risk management to the forefront of decision-making at the highest levels of organizations,” Jaconi says. “And, at the same time, have elevated risk management professionals to play increasingly significant roles within these organizations. With support for two faculty chairs and a graduate student fellowship program, Peter’s generous gift will position the USC Marshall School of Business to take a preeminent role in applied research and thought leadership in risk management.”


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