Impressive Graduate Sparks Fruitful Relationship

B&R Insurance inspired to hire others, supports RMI program

As Brown & Riding Insurance’s relationship with the University of Mississippi has grown, so has the company. B&R has 17 offices across the country and counts some 50 Ole Miss alumni among its employees. The company’s Atlanta office is home to UM alumni (back row, from left) Trevor Boling, Robert Alvarez, Walker McKenzie, Collin Nichols, Zac Bryant, Kyle Armitage and Beau Cantrell; and (front row) Dalton Young, Mary Catherine Hodgson, Taelor Rubin and Emily Chrismer. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi graduate’s resume resulted not only in Brown & Riding Insurance hiring the applicant but also sparked the company’s continuing interest in the university.

Learning about the risk management and insurance program and its caliber of students, B&R has been inspired to make a major gift to UM and hire more of the business school’s graduates.

In 2010, then-recent graduate George Sella attracted the attention of B&R’s president and CEO Jeff Rodriguez, which led to Sella becoming the company’s first employee from the School of Business Administration‘s RMI program. Rodriguez, who had never visited Mississippi, decided to participate in B&R’s inaugural Ole Miss recruiting trip later that year.

“I was very impressed with the school on that first trip, and the result was that Brown & Riding ended up making a number of new hires, including interns and full-time employees,” Rodriguez said. “My relationship with Ole Miss began quite by accident due to receiving that first resume from George.”

Since then, the company has expanded to 17 offices across the country. Sella’s employment has led to more than 50 current employees from Ole Miss, making B&R the largest employer of RMI graduates, said Andre P. Liebenberg, associate professor of finance and the Gwenette P. and Jack W. Robertson Chair of Insurance.

“Once Jeff saw the talent that we have here at Ole Miss, he began to focus on recruiting students from our program,” Liebenberg said. “Along the way, I think Jeff fell in love with Ole Miss and Oxford and has since opened a processing office in Oxford and sent two of his children to Ole Miss.”

B&R is furthering its relationship with Ole Miss by establishing the Brown & Riding Faculty Support Endowment, which will provide income for the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty members in the RMI program.

“There is a need for talent,” Liebenberg said. “And although our RMI program has been successful at placing almost 100 percent of interested students in the risk and insurance industry, we are limited in the number of students we can teach and graduate due to the size of our RMI faculty.

“The endowment is an important first step toward being able to hire another professor.”

Rodriguez credits the RMI program with significantly improving the insurance industry, and he wants to see it continue to offer students its well-rounded, real-world perspective.

“It is important to invest in the future of the industry, and Ole Miss has done a stellar job of turning out high-quality students,” he said. “We want to help the program expand, as it will only mean great things for the industry.”

Liebenberg likewise pointed to B&R’s innovative approach.

“When they recruit at our RMI career fairs, they display the list of UM grads that they employ. I think the most impressive aspect is their retention of employees – I suspect it is somewhere around 90 percent – which is simply outstanding.” 

George Sella

Now a shareholder, senior vice president and broker, Sella believes the partnership between the university and B&R is mutually beneficial because it provides needed resources for the company while giving students experience in the industry.

“Interns get exposure to various teams and product lines, which can help them to grow faster in their careers,” he said. “We get support from students who are invested, eager to learn and who could potentially become full-time employees after graduation. It’s a win-win.”

Stephen Fier, holder of the Liberto-King Professorship in Insurance and associate professor of finance, is grateful for gifts from corporations like B&R.

“Private support enables us to attract and retain award-winning RMI faculty who are focused on preparing students for rewarding careers in the risk and insurance space,” Fier said. “The students obtain a superior education both inside and outside the classroom and are more attractive to employers.

“This helps our program maintain an excellent job placement rate, benefiting students and the industry.”

The Brown & Riding Faculty Support Endowment is open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, or give online at

For more information, contact Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development, at or 662-915-6678.