George Mason University

News at Mason

Taking the risk out of enterprise risk management

August 9, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

In 2015, George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera chartered an enterprise risk management council to rank and prioritize the university’s enterprise risks and develop mitigation strategies.

The resulting structure has been so successful that Julie Zobel, George Mason’s assistant vice president for safety, emergency and enterprise risk management, and Aurali Dade, Mason’s associate vice president for research development, integrity and assurance, were asked recently to make a presentation at the annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers in Minneapolis.

“It is considered a premier conference in higher education,” Zobel said. “Presenting there on such a contemporary topic for higher ed is noteworthy.”

Enterprise risk management is the process by which organizations manage risks that could prevent them from achieving their objectives and mission, Zobel said.

Mason’s approach, as described by Janice Abraham, president and chief executive officer of United Educators, is state of the art.

The university prioritized seven top risks and separated them into two clusters: “workforce sustainability” and “infrastructure,” the latter of which encompasses facilities and information technology.

A third cluster, called “compliance,” will be the focus of Mason’s enterprise risk management efforts this year.

“This allows the university to foresee potential issues before they occur and plan for them as opposed to being reactive,” Zobel said. “It also helps the university on the departmental level. If you are identified as a risk owner who has to tackle one of these enterprise risks, the process assists you with prioritizing efforts and resources within your own unit.”

As a general rule, the university should also be careful to not take on too many risks and be willing to seek information from subject matter experts.

“We’ve gotten a lot of buy-in and traction for our program, very quickly,” Zobel said.