Two students studying employee benefits in Appalachian State University's Walker College of Business participated in the Health Benefits Conference and Expo in Clearwater, Florida on January 20-22.
Leigha Fisher, a senior minoring in employee benefits summarized her experience attending the conference stating, “[This conference] gave me a chance to further explore the emerging issues that the employee benefits industry is facing today while providing context to the lessons I have been learning in my classes. It was exciting to see all the different companies striving to solve the problems that occur in the healthcare system.”
(App State attendees with Fred Goldstein of the Validation Institute holding socks from the #picksocks tribe)
The trip is one of many exciting opportunities students get to participate in while pursuing an employee benefits minor at Appalachian.
“When students think of careers that help people, they often overlook careers in employee benefits. However, these careers are very impactful in creating solution-driven health and wellness initiatives” said Professor Jamie Parson, who accompanied the students. "Students like Leigha are already finding jobs in the field of benefits. She is going to work for Mercer in Charlotte after graduation in May 2020."
“Pursuing the employee benefits minor was the best decision I have made of my collegiate academic career." said Leigha, "It started out as something that loosely complemented my major, and has turned into my favorite set of classes."
Brooke Hugo is a junior health care management major and employee benefits minor. Attending this conference further sparked her interest in an employee benefits career.
“The Employee Benefits classes aligned with my major more than I thought," said Hugo. "Adding on the Employee Benefits minor has been one of the best decisions I have ever made...the employee benefits classes have allowed me to connect more with this minor and explore new career opportunities.”
Recognizing the increasing role that company-provided benefits play in an employee’s total compensation package, beginning in the fall of 2017, Appalachian's Brantley Risk and Insurance Center expanded its course offerings to include a minor in employee benefits. Appalachian is one of only a handful of universities providing student education in employee benefits, and the only university presently offering a minor in employee benefits.
In September 2019, professor Kevin Huff was invited to help with the employee benefits minor program development and enrollment. Huff brings 25 years’ employee benefit plan administration, consulting and regulatory compliance experience to the program.
“Twenty years ago, employers never would have imagined the degree to which employee benefits would become a core component of the employee’s total compensation package," said Huff. "In just a few short years we have been able to establish partnerships with many top global employee benefits firms which are now working with us to promote the program and equip students for careers in the field.”
The classes are structured to expose students to a wide range of employee benefits offered by employers, trends and regulations impacting the industry.