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College Is Risky Business

“What if that CATA bus speeds up while I’m crossing the street? What if we have a pop quiz on the one day that I skip class?” As college students, we face risks on a regular basis, but so does the university itself.

Penn State Live recently profiled Gary Langsdale, Penn State’s resident risk manager. He utilizes a corporate approach called Enterprise Risk Management and leads a team of employees who strive to make Penn State a safer place–in every aspect imaginable. Langsdale defines a risk as “any impediment to accomplishing institutional goals.” Such impediments can pertain to data security, laboratory environments, pandemics, student behaviors, weather emergencies, and much more.

Langsdale and his team conducted 53 interviews throughout the university and identified over 100 possible risks. Here are the top ten:

1. Unique risks involved in operating an academic medical center.
2. Data/information security risks (protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic data).
3. Emergency prevention, preparation and management (identified as both an operational and hazard risk).
4. General physical well-being and safety of students and employees.
5. Protecting Penn State’s reputation and maintaining the quality of a Penn State degree.
6. External funding and its impact on operations (both state and federal funding).
7. Technology initiatives, rapid changes in technology, data storage and Penn State’s ability to keep up with commercial applications and maintain interoperability.
8. Meeting the changing student demographics in today’s marketplace.
9. Alcohol impact related to high-risk drinking by students.
10. The regulatory environment and Penn State’s ability to maintain compliance with a complex set of laws and regulations.

“Risk management” seems like common sense, but enterprises need all the help they can get in today’s complicated world. If you’d like to join the fight to control risks, consider the relatively new major “Security and Risk Analysis,” in the College of IST. And remember to deliberately consider your options before crossing the street or skipping class.

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