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NMSU College of Business alum heads back to school - to join the faculty

Don't let Mike McGonigle's youth fool you. At 27, McGonigle may be one of the youngest faculty members in New Mexico State University's College of Business, but the insurance business is in his blood.


Mike McGonigle portrait
Mike McGonigle is a college assistant professor of finance in New Mexico State University's College of Business. He also oversees the college's Insurance and Financial Services Center. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

A third-generation Las Cruces insurance professional, McGonigle was learning the ropes in the industry long before he earned his bachelor's degree in finance from NMSU in 2009. Eager to get out on his own after graduation, he left the family business, McGonigle Insurance, and moved to Denver, where he worked as a claims specialist for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

"I stayed in touch with all my professors, though," he said. "Their support was so important."

In Denver, McGonigle began work on his master's degree in insurance management from Boston University and taught courses for professionals seeking a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation - a credential that typically takes two years to earn, though he achieved it himself in just nine months.

McGonigle is proud of his prestigious master's degree, but there was something about his time as an undergrad at NMSU that really resonated with him.

"The professors here are able to take the time to talk to you and give you advice," he said of NMSU. "I love the campus and I have a ton of good memories from my time here."

So when an opportunity came along to return to his alma mater - this time as a faculty member - he jumped at the chance to be close to family and working in an environment that he found so supportive and engaging. "I just felt like everything was pointing me here," he said.

McGonigle represents something of a trend in the College of Business: a growing number of faculty members in the college are NMSU business alums themselves, and Interim Dean Kathy Brook said it's a reflection of the impact that a caring, involved faculty can have.

"These former students made connections with their professors here at NMSU," she said. "Now, as they're turning to careers in higher education, they remember how important that was to their success, and they want to be a part of it."

McGonigle said his experience as an undergraduate definitely influences his teaching style.

"I want the students who are in my classes to know that I'm here for them," he said. "I expect students to come to me and ask for real examples of how the theory we learn in class can be applied. My door is always open."

In addition to his responsibilities teaching personal finance and principles of insurance courses, McGonigle also oversees the Insurance and Financial Services Center, which supports students by providing scholarships for certification exams and conference travel, as well as facilitating interaction between students and industry leaders.

McGonigle said there are great opportunities right now for new professionals in the insurance and risk management industry. With Baby Boomers retiring at a fast rate, there's a widening talent gap, and it's important for students and new graduates to make connections with these professionals through conferences and internships where they can interact with some of the industry's top decision-makers.

"It's important for so many reasons, including from a motivational standpoint," he said. "You get to find out where you could eventually wind up - and find out what you need to know to get there.

"These leaders are thrilled for you to take their job eventually, and a lot of these relationships turn into mentorships," he continued. "These are important connections."

One of McGonigle's goals is to raise students' awareness of the Risk Management and Insurance Studies program at NMSU, as well as the valuable support available through the Insurance and Financial Services Center. The program and center were established through a $1 million gift in 2003 from Mountain States Insurance Group, which created an endowed chair for the study of insurance and financial services - a position currently held by Associate Professor Tim Query. A number of other industry supporters also provided generous gifts to get the program up and running.

McGonigle said he wants to increase outreach to area high schools, and get students thinking about careers in the insurance industry.

"I think some people have the wrong idea of the insurance industry and tend to think of a stereotypical door-to-door life insurance salesman," he said. "But careers in insurance and risk management aren't typically like that. They are much more about helping clients manage their risks. It makes an impact in their lives. I saw that in my father's business - it's what got me interested in the industry."

For more information about the Insurance and Financial Services Center or the Risk Management and Insurance Studies program, contact McGonigle at mikemc@nmsu.edu or 575-646-4091.