Kansas City is known for its barbecue. Detroit is known for cars. And James Carson’s hometown — it’s known for insurance.
Carson, the Daniel P. Amos Distinguished Professor of Insurance at the Terry College of Business, grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, intrigued by the business that seemed to be everywhere.
It was what everyone talked about, and it hooked him early.
“We joke that Lincoln was a great place to live, but you wouldn’t want to visit,” Carson said. “But it really is a great place, and insurance is a big deal there. Lincoln has a bunch of insurers. A lot of the people I played tennis with growing up, their parents worked in insurance, and a lot of the adults I played against and practiced with were in the insurance business. That was my first introduction to insurance. And Warren Buffett is right up the road in Omaha with an insurance company with the most equity of any insurer in the world.”
When he went to college, a teammate on the University of Nebraska tennis team talked about his family’s insurance business all the time.
“All he would talk about is insurance,” Carson said. “But he made it so interesting and fascinating. After a few months of this, I started thinking, ‘Well, you know, this insurance thing, there might be something to this.’”
Carson has spent his career helping students find that same spark as a risk management and insurance professor. On July 1, he assumed the head role of Terry’s Department of Insurance, Legal Studies and Real Estate (ILSRE), which oversees the college’s Risk Management and Insurance, Legal Studies and Real Estate programs.
Carson, who joined the ILSRE department in 2011, succeeds Rob Hoyt. Hoyt, who remains on the faculty at Terry, holds the Dudley L. Moore Jr. Chair of Insurance and has successfully led the department since 2000.
Carson is one of three new department heads at the college. Josh Kinsler, professor of economics, succeeds Chris Cornwell in the Department of Economics. John Campbell, who holds the Herbert E. Miller Chair in Financial Accounting, succeeds Jeff Netter in the Department of Finance.
“We are deeply grateful to Chris Cornwell, Rob Hoyt and Jeff Netter for their many years of dedicated service and leadership as department heads,” said Dean Ben Ayers. “I want to thank John, Jim and Josh for their willingness to take on their new responsibilities, and with the support of their departmental colleagues, I am confident each of them will provide effective leadership and direction for their departments.”
Carson will also serve as head of the Terry College’s Risk Management and Insurance Program, the country’s largest and top-ranked risk management program. The Real Estate Program is ranked in the top five by U.S. News & World Report, while the Certificate in Legal Studies is one of the largest certificate programs at the University of Georgia.
“You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s a lot harder to stay number one than it is to get there,” Carson said. “Dr. Hoyt’s done a great job getting us to a great place and keeping us there, and I’ll work with the great team we have — in RMI and throughout the department, college and UGA — to do everything we can to continue to build upon our standing.”
He added he feels honored by the opportunity to build on the success of his predecessors, including Hoyt, program founder E.J. Leverett, risk management luminaries James Trieschmann and Sandra Gustavson, and to work with the “tremendous” ILSRE faculty, staff and students. Carson is especially grateful for the loyalty and support of UGA alumni who make it possible to give students incredible educational opportunities.
Before earning his PhD in risk management and insurance from UGA in 1993, Carson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance from the University of Nebraska.
After graduation, he taught at Illinois State University and Florida State University before returning to UGA in 2011.
Since then, he’s taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in virtually all areas of insurance, employee benefits and risk management.
In addition to teaching, Carson is a leading researcher, publishing more than 50 scholarly articles. His work focuses on the economics of risk and insurance, market discipline, insurer operations and regulatory issues.
He also is co-author of a collection of risk and insurance principles based principally on Warren Buffett’s writing and speaking dating back to the 1960s that provides students with an invaluable source of Buffett’s keen insights on risk and insurance.