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Insurance Commissioner, Senator Team Up to Start RMI Fund
The scholarship established for seniors in the Risk Management and Insurance Program by Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney (center) and state Senator Walter Michel (right) is “inspiring,” said Ken Cyree (left), dean of the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.

What student wouldn’t want an opportunity to have a rewarding career right out of college?

Especially if a job is all but guaranteed.

That’s the inspiration behind a University of Mississippi scholarship created with a combined $50,000 gift from Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Walter Michel, a state senator and real estate professional from Ridgeland, Mississippi.

The J. Walter Michel and Michael J. Chaney Risk Management and Insurance Scholarship of Excellence Fund annually will provide $2,500 scholarships to two seniors in the School of Business Administration’s RMI program.

The university’s RMI program has a 100 percent job placement rate for graduates looking to begin their careers right after college, said Andre Liebenberg, the Gwenette P. and Jack W. Robertson chair of insurance and associate professor of finance at the School of Business Administration.

“Our RMI program is focused on showing students the amazing job opportunities in risk management and insurance and then preparing them for meaningful careers in an industry that is desperate for talent,” Liebenberg said.

“Thus, in addition to benefiting our students, the Michel and Chaney Risk Management and Insurance Scholarship of Excellence Fund will enable our program to better serve the industry by attracting more students to this major.”

In 2017, the university’s RMI program was recognized as a Global Center of Insurance Excellence by the International Insurance Society and now is ranked as the 12th largest RMI program in the United States.

The first two recipients of this new scholarship are expected to be selected this spring with the financial benefits awarded in the fall and spring semesters of the 2021-2022 academic year.

Michel chairs the state legislature’s Senate Insurance Committee and works closely with Commissioner Chaney and the Mississippi Insurance Department.

The two men are longtime friends who share a passion for public service, enhancing the state and creating new educational and career opportunities for 21st-century Mississippians.

“We both have many of the same values,” said Chaney, now in his fourth term as the state’s insurance commissioner. “We support our church communities and our families and we want to do what we can to leave the state in better shape than we found it.

“Finding a way for us to assist those in the generations coming after us was natural. This is an especially comfortable fit because we want to lend a hand to individuals interested in the risk management and insurance profession – a business that touches the lives of everyone in Mississippi.”

They also hope the scholarship encourages students to consider a career in RMI because of its positive impact on wellness and career potential, Michel said.

“If a student is ready to earn a degree and provide a vital service to their neighbors, the RMI program is a wonderful option due to its job placement record,” said Michel, who recently created another scholarship to support UM students pursuing degrees in real estate.

Since graduating from the business school in 1983, Michel has continued his engagement. The longtime Rebel fan regularly travels to athletic events and has served on the Real Estate Advisory Board for many years.

Likewise, Chaney has been honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the RMI program and its professional society. He is a regular speaker at insurance symposiums on campus and was named one of the top insurance professionals by Insurance Business America magazine and a Healthcare Hero by the Mississippi Business Journal.

“Having Senator Michel and Commissioner Chaney supporting our Risk Management and Insurance program is inspiring,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the business school.

“Walter has been a great friend to the school. His support of two different majors is unique and illustrates his commitment to our programs and the state,” he said. “Commissioner Chaney also has been supportive for many years, speaking at our insurance symposium for years and serving as a strong advocate for the industry.

“We are encouraged and honored to have these two engage with us, support our faculty, provide resources to our programs and create exceptional educational opportunities for our students.”

Additionally, the scholarships are designed to promote inclusion as recipients must be Mississippi residents and high school graduates, as well as contribute to the diversity of the student population.

“Walter and I have a common goal that the scholarship will create diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry,” Chaney said.

While the scholarship is funded to award a minimum of 20 scholarships over the next 10 years, additional gifts are being sought to continue the scholarships beyond that period.

The J. Walter Michel and Michael J. Chaney Risk Management and Insurance Scholarship of Excellence Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund’s name noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or visit

For more information, contact Angela Brown, senior director of development in the business school, at or 662-915-3138.

By Jonathan Scott


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.