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Managing risk at CWRU: Q&A with Rose Kelly, director of audit services

What do skydiving, investing in the stock market, and telling someone you love them for the first time have in common? They all involve risk. 

It’s easy to think of high-stakes scenarios like these when considering this concept, but the reality is risk impacts our lives in varying degrees on a daily basis. Such is the case with  almost every process and procedure at Case Western Reserve University, whether it be in small ways, like taking a chance on changing a group’s meeting time, or larger ones, such as launching a major new revenue stream.

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Rose Kelly, director of audit services, leads the university’s Enterprise Risk Management program, which launched five years ago to put a framework in place to address the risks faced at CWRU. 

“Risk can impact us in ways both big and small,” she explained, “and can at times be hard to predict.” 

To learn more about risk management, The Daily tapped into the expertise of Kelly, a CWRU employee for the past seven years who’s also a recent graduate of the School of Law, having earned her Master of Arts in Financial Integrity

Read on to learn how you can manage risk—at CWRU and in your own life.

What does risk management even mean?

Risk management is the process in which we look at risk, understand where it is and its effects, and then come up with solutions to manage, or mitigate, that risk to lower and more acceptable measures. Risk is not inherently bad.  Anytime we want to make progress or start something new, and bring about rewards for doing so, we will have to accept an element of risk. We just need to make sure, as a university, that we have eyes and ears on the risks involved so we can prepare to the best of our abilities for the various outcomes of our decisions and choices. 

How can I look to manage risk in my own life?

The key to managing risk is risk awareness and understanding which risks are most likely to occur and what their impact will be. You can make yourself crazy trying to plan and prepare for everything, which actually defeats the point. Talking with family and friends about what means the most to you (financial stability, safety, etc.) can help you home in on where you should focus your planning and time. Thinking about risk and planning for outcomes should ultimately relieve stress, not create it. 

What processes does CWRU have in place to manage risk?

The university takes a three-pronged approach to risk management.  We co-source with Deloitte to provide our internal audit function, which helps to provide support around risk and control assurance. Our Enterprise Risk Management (or ERM) Program, which I head, looks to understand what top risks affect the university as a whole and how we are preparing for them. Finally, our Compliance Program, headed by Lisa Palazzo in the Office of General Counsel, helps to coordinate compliance efforts around risk university wide. The three groups meet weekly, if not more, to discuss what top risk management items are currently being tackled. 

What can I do to help manage risk at CWRU?

Think about the processes and activities that you yourself take part in at the university.  What seems inherently risky? Continue to think of ways that you, or your department or cohort, can help to manage the risk. If something seems especially risky to you, and you don’t feel that it’s something that others are sufficiently aware of, you can always feel free to contact myself at Audit Services or, if it’s a compliance issue, Lisa Palazzo in the Compliance Office to help navigate the risk and come up with solutions to strengthen our awareness and responses. 

What do we think are our biggest risks currently at CWRU and what do we see for the future?

Some of our top risks, currently, revolve around cybersecurity, physical safety on campus, large revenue concentrations, and compliance with legislation, such as Title IX. Risk is an ever-changing environment and while some risk, like that around COVID-19, might become more manageable, new risks are always on the horizon, like those around environmental, social and governance (or ESG) issues.