Senior Jenna Benvenuti is preparing to embark on the trip of a lifetime…road trip that is. Jenna was recently selected from a worldwide application pool by Roadtrip Nation to participate in a documentary series challenging the traditional conception of the insurance industry. Roadtrip Nation, which airs on many local PBS stations, focuses on inspiring young generations to lead productive careers.
Each summer, Roadtrip Nation selects a group of college students, with certain commonalities, to journey cross country seeking new meaning, with a focus on a particular industry or social issue and with the goal of challenging stereotypes. Along the way, road trippers interview professionals from the field of study, sharing their unique stories of success and self-fulfillment in order to inspire students to overcome their own personal adversity to achieve their goals, all while living and traveling in a giant, green RV.
“I’m still a little bit in awe that I made it through the interview process and have been selected to take part in this road trip,” Jenna said. “I’m so incredibly excited and sorting through a mix of other emotions. I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to travel and see so much of the country, it’s unlike any experience I’ve ever had before.”
Jenna learned about the opportunity during the insurance and risk management (IRM) seminar, focused around Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), Olivet’s professional insurance fraternity. Tom Humphreys, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, CIC, director of the The University of Olivet risk management and insurance center and assistant professor of insurance, risk management and financial planning, shared the experience with the class and immediately, fellow students turned to Jenna exclaiming that she seemed like a perfect match.
After talking it over with Mike Oyster, chair of the business administration department, assistant professor of business administration and executive-in-residence, and Mike Weglarz, assistant professor of insurance and risk management, Jenna made the decision to apply.
Once the submission and interview process began, Jenna was elated to make it through all three rounds, until ultimately hearing that she had been chosen. Sharing the news with professors Humphreys, Oyster and Weglarz, each of whom encouraged her every step of the way, was a special moment for Jenna. She says it’s something she’ll never forget and is very thankful to have this type of relationship with her professors.
Currently, Jenna is working with fellow insurance students and road trippers, Alain and Gaby, and Roadtrip Nation directors to plan their path of travel and interviews along the way, aiming for 15 in total. Jenna explained one goal of the interviews will be to expose the lack of diversity in the insurance industry while proving that there are many opportunities for women, minorities and other underrepresented groups that don’t fit the traditional executive mold. In addition, the trip will include sightseeing, and Jenna hopes stops will include a bite to eat at well-known restaurants.
While production details are still being finalized, Jenna is spending her time finishing up an internship at VTC Insurance Group in Troy. A double major in business administration and insurance and risk management, Jenna didn’t always know this was her path. She always thought of insurance as a necessary but unexciting field, juggling files, phone calls and wearing khaki pants. It was Rich Lehman, former insurance administrator and current student account specialist, that turned Jenna onto the idea of IRM, helping her realize the abundant opportunities in a growing field and the importance of being there when an insured needs you most during a stressful time in their lives.
“As Rich got to know me, he knew insurance would be a great fit for me,” Jenna said. “That’s one of the things I love about Olivet, the faculty and staff truly get to know you and your personality, interests and dislikes and want to contribute to your success. I’m so grateful for Rich’s persistence for me to discover the world of insurance and for the encouragement of professors Humphreys, Oyster and Weglarz to apply for the road trip. They’ve each had an immense impact on me.”
Now in love with the field, Jenna holds a student worker position in the insurance office and serves as vice president of industry relations for GIS. After graduation, she plans to pursue her MBA at Walsh College while focusing on advancing her management skills. She also wants to help others who view the industry as dull discover their love for insurance as well, another goal while she’s traveling the country.
Jenna, Alain, Gabby and the Roadtrip Nation team will be hitting the road July 4 on a cross-country journey from the east to west coast, after completing a prep session a few days before, including a driver’s training course for the RV. “I’m most nervous about hitting the road behind the wheel and adapting to the shared space with the other students,” Jenna admitted, “But I’m so excited to travel, show people the truth about insurance, learn about myself and grow as a person.”
The series will air next spring on most PBS stations and other networks. Check out Roadtrip Nation and the benefits it offers to aspiring, young professionals, and stay tuned for updates from Jenna.