Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 2, 1997

Taking some of the risk out of how you do business

by Anne Dolan

She's no policewoman or whistle-blower. And her intent isn't to induce paranoia, but Rebecca Adair, ISU's risk manager, encourages university employees to plan thoroughly -- and plan ahead.

Risk management, what Adair does full-time for Iowa State, is a huge umbrella that applies to everything from summer camps for high schoolers to preventing thefts from the library, from alcohol sales on campus to new building construction. It applies to Veishea, recruiting activities in the athletic department, ISU property insurance and licensed products carrying the ISU name or logo. It applies to special projects as well as day-to-day work activities at Iowa State.

If you like processes, risk management is about assessing potential risks to the university -- developing a "what if" list of what might go awry, looking at options to minimize risk (such as buying more insurance or altering a process), implementing at least one of the options and, finally, evaluating it to see if it's effective.

If it sounds time-consuming, it could be. But Adair is here to walk you through it. And she actually has developed a "what-if" list for planners to use as they begin to lay out their events.

"It's really just an awareness thing," Adair said. "We try to be proactive. Whether it's a summer science camp or reviewing products carrying the ISU logo, we want to make it a safe, positive experience and protect the university."

In an era of lawsuit frenzy, Adair said risk management necessarily is growing in demand. The mindset of most people is that as a state agency, Iowa State is self-insured, with fairly deep pockets, so nobody has to worry about mishaps.

"It's true that we have a system in place to respond, but we still have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our employees and for everyone who visits campus," she said. "We know we can't eliminate every risk, but we want people to have a pleasant experience at Iowa State."

Sometimes, as with special events on campus, the liability stays with the planner. For example, when Odyssey of the Mind holds its world finals at ISU, the organization has its own insurance. When children come to campus for sports camps or science camps, organizers ask campers' parents to sign liability waiver forms.

Adair said she already works with a lot of groups on campus to do risk assessments, but she knows there are more she should be working with as they begin planning projects or events.

"I hope we get campus awareness to where everyone's planning process includes an element of risk management," she said. "We're a service department. We'd like to ensure things stay safe and incident-free.

For more information on ISU's risk management program, call Adair, 4-5315.

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