Areas of Study

Jake Grindstaff, a third-year student studying Risk Management and Insurance (RMI), earned a summer internship with the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB). Grindstaff is the first Gallaudet student to declare RMI as a major and earn an internship with the DISB.

The RMI degree program is now in its second year.

“I saw that Gallaudet had recently started this program, and knew it was something I’m interested in and want to pursue,” said Grindstaff. “RMI is applicable across a broad spectrum of areas. It is also very interesting, and everyone depends on insurance.”

Grindstaff formed connections through the RMI program, which made the six-week internship with DISB possible.

“Less than a month after taking my first two RMI classes, my teachers contacted me and helped me obtain this internship,” said Grindstaff.

Grindstaff’s efforts during the six-week span have focused on research into telematics, a branch of information technology that merges telecommunications and informatics. Grindstaff is specifically researching a device that insurance companies can have installed in vehicles, which logs a driver’s driving habits, including speeding and hard braking, so companies can adjust insurance premiums as necessary based on driving behavior.

While the application of telematics is of benefit to insurance companies, the device also allows drivers to monitor their driving patterns and track fuel usage. With the vehicle telematics technology showing success in California, Grindstaff’s research evaluates how Washington, D.C. can implement the technology.

Even with the expected challenge of joining a hearing staff, Grindstaff has found the agency environment enjoyable.

“I have been working in a hearing environment and learning how to engage and communicate,” said Grindstaff. “This has been a very welcoming and friendly office; much of my concern and stress has been reduced. It feels like a normal working environment.”

Philip Barlow, associate commissioner of insurance at DISB and Grindstaff’s supervisor, is eager to continue the newly formed partnership between Gallaudet and the agency.

“Hopefully we will continue to do this with Gallaudet, and maybe even with Jake as he moves forward, as we as a group expand our abilities,” said Barlow. “I think it is good for and is important for the financial services industry to be able to incorporate and take advantage of the skills that people like Jake have.”

Interactions between Grindstaff and the DISB staff have worked out well, according to Barlow. Gallaudet Career Center Director Karen Cook, career consultant Anjali Desai-Margolin, ’87 & G-’92, and Grindstaff led a session, “Working Together: Deaf and Hearing Employees,” which taught the staff about Deaf Culture, communication strategies for group meetings, and basic signs to enhance communication.

“It has been a learning experience for all of us, but I think the staff has been eager to embrace Jake,” said Barlow. “I talked to other staff members, who on their own have been learning to improve or to establish some skills so they can communicate with Jake directly.”

With the future expansion of the Gallaudet-DISB partnership, Barlow hopes to bring more students interested in pursuing careers into the financial services industry.

“A big part of what we do here at the agency is educate people about the financial services industry.” said Barlow. “We aren’t going to all of a sudden have a lot of factories here, but we do have a lot of jobs in the district that people with this kind of background can get. We want to help bring business here and find jobs for people in the local area.”

Grindstaff sees the insurance field is expanding, and that securing the first internship with DISB through the RMI program will attract the attention of potential RMI students.

“Opening this door for Gallaudet to be involved within the insurance world can motivate them to learn about insurance companies, what they do, and what is involved,” said Grindstaff. “Knowing that this opportunity is here now is a great thing.”

To learn more about the RMI program and degree requirements, click here.

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