By Sarah Schuetze
Despite differences in subject matter and methods, students in disciplines like biology and English have some common ground: they are part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Recently, this common ground connected two University of Kentucky alumni who graduated over 30 years apart.
Bob Burke graduated from UK with a degree in sociology in 1970 and Casey Robinson with a degree in Mathematical Economics in 2014. Their shared ties to A&S led to a valuable opportunity for Robinson, made possible by Burke. On a sunny day last spring, Robinson and Burke met for lunch to celebrate their plans.
Since graduating, Burke has built a successful career in the insurance industry. He is the president and CEO of Colonial Group in Greensboro, N.C. Thanks to Burke, the Colonial Group has partnered with American Modern in Cincinnati, Ohio, to offer an internship exclusively for a UK A&S student.
Robinson was the first recipient of the internship, which he worked at in the summer months of 2014. Burke recalled that the applicant pool was impressive, but Robinson gave a great interview and “came out on top with Colonial and American Modern votes.”
In explaining his reasoning for developing this internship specifically for A&S students, Burke said, “Since I graduated with a degree from A&S and ended up in the insurance business, I thought the opportunity for this kind of experience would be something of value for an A&S student. Also the insurance industry is one that covers all aspects of life, for most everyone purchases insurance of some sort during their lifetime.”
For Robinson, the internship fit his own career plans. He said, “I had an interest in becoming an actuary, which are primarily hired by insurance companies. Because of that, I wanted to see how the insurance business worked and this internship would allow me to shadow employees in different areas of insurance.”
Robinson spent four weeks at Colonial Group (a wholesale agency) and four weeks at American Modern (an insurance carrier). This was a paid internship that even provided housing for Robinson in both Greensboro and Cincinnati, Burke noted. Having just finished his degree, Robinson said that through his experiences at both companies, he “was able to see how math and cconomics were combined to solve real life problems.”
With the help of the staff at Colonial Group and American Modern, Robinson learned about the insurance industry, how to run a business, and the art of sales.
The insurance underwriters and actuaries he worked with helped Robinson become familiar with policy inspection and risk—important aspects of the industry. He and a different intern did a final presentation to the staff at Colonial Group about their experiences—a video of which can be seen here.
Robinson’s favorite part of the job was “going on sales trips with the agents and learning how the different sales agents built rapport and gained trust from customers.” He and Burke agreed that the skills Robinson developed through his internship will give him an advantage as he moves up the career ladder.
Looking back on his experiences, Robinson talked about Burke as a mentor, saying Burke “mentored me by encouraging me to take chances in my career and helped me understand that failing is part of the process and to not be afraid to fail.” This is the kind of insight that can only come from someone with years of valuable professional experience.
Currently, Robinson lives in Bardstown, Kentucky, and is a medical claims processor at ACS Healthcare Provider Solutions. He hopes to begin working toward an MBA. Burke confirmed that Colonial Group and American Modern want to continue the internship each year.
As he continues to build his professional career, perhaps Robinson will be inspired by Burke to find ways to stay connected with A&S students of differing generations and sharing words of wisdom.
Photo: Casey Robinson (left) and Bob Burke