To say senior Jenna Benvenuti had a busy summer is an understatement. She visited 15 states, completed an internship, bonded with an entire circle of new friends, solidified her career goals, became more self-confident, learned more about insurance and made countless memories. All of these accomplishments came by way of Roadtrip Nation and the cross-country Insurance Roadtrip.
Jenna’s journey began last spring when she was selected as one of three college students hitting the road in the TV documentary series. To answer the question, What does it look like to confront risk face-to-face every day and to build a career – and a life – around unpredictable odds? Jenna teamed up with fellow road trippers and insurance majors Alain and Gaby and jumped in a big, green RV. The trio was assisted by Roadtrip Nation directors and film crew to document interviews along the way, picking the brains of top-level insurance and risk management executives across the nation.
“The experience was so surreal,” Jenna exclaimed. “I still can’t believe that I of all people got to have this opportunity. It was the perfect timing for me. I’m nearing the end of my undergrad but still felt uncertain whether my career was heading in the right direction. After speaking with so many industry leaders, and realizing that many of them had come from similar backgrounds as I do, I am positive risk management is for me.”
Once Roadtrip Nation had selected Jenna, Alain, hailing from Connecticut with strong Japanese heritage, and Gaby, coming all the way from Wales, United Kingdom, the three dove into planning their route. Beginning in Massachusetts and ending in California, the team planned 14 interviews in nine cities, ranging from professors, to underwriters, vice presidents, presidents and even CEOs. In addition, the team worked together to plan traditional road trip destinations as well, such as Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. After an RV driving school crash course, three virtual strangers moved into the rig together and hit the road.
“I was so nervous about clicking with Alain and Gaby,” Jenna admitted. “I had no clue what to expect, but it was reassuring that we all had at least one thing in common, majoring in insurance. All my fear washed away almost instantly. We fit together like a family. I became the peacemaking middle child with Gaby as my older sister and Alain as our younger brother. We bickered a lot, but always made up so quickly and could laugh at our fights later. That’s one of the things I’ll remember most about the road trip.”
Interviews Along the Route
Jenna’s favorite interview was with Naomi DeMarco, the marketing director of Valen Analytics in Denver. The company partners with insurance carriers to evaluate and model the amount of risk new clients will bring, improving underwriting performance. Not only did Jenna admire Naomi for her premiere leadership skills and ability to overcome the adversity women leaders often face, but she also felt a personal connection with Naomi. Naomi moved away from her family to pursue career opportunities, a reality Jenna knows she will soon be facing herself.
“I’m preparing to do what’s best for my career after I graduate,” Jenna explained. “I know that may mean taking a job in another part of the country, which has been a big thing weighing on my mind and making me question my career choice. Naomi faced a similar challenge, but she reassured me that technology will allow me to stay connected with my friends and family, and put into perspective what that will be like. It was empowering to know that if she can do it, I am confident I can too.”
Other interviews included Karen Clark, co-founder, president and CEO of Karen Clark & Company, Laura Woop, director of risk management, payments and credit services of Tiffany & Co., Kurt Wrobel, CFO and chief actuary of Geisinger Health Plan, and Mihir A. Desai, professor of finance and law at Harvard University.
Bumps in the Road
Along with the interviews, career exploration, team building and fun, Jenna and the Insurance Roadtrip crew also hit a few bumps in the road. While driving through the Rocky Mountains, Jenna found herself coasting downhill with brakes that had seen better days. Nearing the end of the trip, the unthinkable happened, and the trusty RV left the team completely stranded during the last leg of the journey, but not before the septic level gauge malfunctioned, leading the team to rush to the dump station. To make matters worse, the RV hose was a few inches too short to reach the drain.
“Oh my goodness! That RV,” Jenna said with exasperation. “Dealing with the issues it had along the way were crazy, but ended up giving me a strong sense of adulthood and responsibility. That night at the dump station, we ended up having to push the RV back with our own strength for the hose to reach because the engine was stalling. It was late and we were all so tired; I never thought we could do it but somehow we did. It was such a triumph for our team together. I’ll never forget it.”
The team ended up completing the road trip in a rental car while staying in hotels and bed and breakfasts, but managed to stay on schedule and laugh about their earlier predicaments.
The Final Destination
Jenna, Alain and Gaby finished the trip in San Francisco. Their final task was to film their overall thoughts about the trip before saying goodbye and flying home. The Roadtrip Nation documentary is now in the production phase and the series will likely debut on PBS stations in the spring of 2018.
“Through the ups and downs, it ended up being perfect,” Jenna reflected. “Saying goodbye and filming my finals thoughts was so hard. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but couldn’t hold a few tears back in the moment. I’m already trying to plan a reunion with Alain and Gaby, and we are all so excited to see the finished production.”
During the last few weeks of her summer vacation, Jenna completed an internship at VTC Insurance in Troy before moving back to OC at the end of August. She loves bringing her new experiences into the classroom to share with other students and professors, and can’t wait to dive even deeper into her studies.
Learn more about the premiere insurance and risk management program at The University of Olivet by visiting campus. Contact the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.456.7189 to launch your journey as a Comet.