Risk is Hooper’s business at ASU
Unsafe vehicles taking students on field trips. Ripped carpet that causes people to trip. Mishandled chemicals in a laboratory. Frayed power cords. Leaking underground storage tanks.
There are a lot of things for a director of risk management to worry about, especially at a university as large and complex as ASU.
But Bruce Hooper, the newly appointed university risk manager, has learned to take it all in stride. He’s working to alleviate the dangers and risks, but he doesn’t lose sleep over them.
Hooper, who was director of risk management, insurance and environmental health and safety at the University of Wyoming for more than 15 years, says that when he first began working in risk management, “it was hard to go anywhere – football games, basketball games – without seeing something that needed to be corrected.”
“But after a period of time, you recognize all those things, but it doesn’t distract you,” he adds. “If you see something that can be taken care of immediately, you take care of it.”
Hooper, who joined the ASU staff Dec. 17, experienced a “baptism of fire” of sorts when he started his job. It was just weeks after the Memorial Union fire, and he had to jump in quickly.
In fact, Hooper started becoming involved in the MU restoration when he still was on the job at the University of Wyoming. He had been in the MU just the day before fire broke out and was on his way back to Wyoming that fateful day.
“I was at the airport when it happened,” he says. “I learned about it when I got back to my office and found an e-mail. After I was offered the job, I became more active in it.”
The thought of trying to list every possible risk to every faculty member, staff and student at ASU seems overwhelming, but Hooper says he will study the university area by area, creating a culture of safety that everyone will embrace.
“ASU is very fortunate to have Bruce Hooper join our staff,” says Paul Ward, vice president for university administration and general counsel.
“He brings with him years of experience leading a highly successful risk management program at Wyoming, and ASU will benefit from depth of knowledge of risk management needs in a higher education environment.”
Hooper’s appointment stems from a recommendation of the ad hoc risk management task force, Ward says.
“The task force determined that ASU did not have a central point of contact for the university community or the Arizona Department of Administration risk manager, on risk management issues,” Ward says. “It is expected that this position will facilitate a coordinated response across departmental lines, and increase efficiency and effectiveness in managing risk at ASU.”
So what exactly is risk management?
Hooper says most people associate risk management with insurance.
“But that’s just one of the functions,” he says. “It isn’t the main focus. Risk management is designed to review all of the properties and programs – anything that goes on within the confines of ASU – to attempt to reduce or eliminate the risks, and to try to protect the university’s assets.”
Risk management also includes damage to reputations, he says.
“That was something we didn’t look at 10 years ago,” Hooper says.
At the University of Wyoming, for example, he dealt with the murder of Matthew Shepard, a student who was tortured and slain in 1998 for his homosexuality.
“We had to determine if this would have an impact on the institution, and how much of it would be negative,” Hooper says.
Something just as simple as having a high school orientation program moved out of the MU because of the fire can have a negative impact on ASU, Hooper says.
“By having the orientation in the MU, it showcases ASU and the MU, and students will go to the bookstore and buy branded ASU merchandise,” he says. “This year, it’s not in the MU, so will that affect enrollment and bookstore sales? We want to try to minimize the negative consequences of such occurrences.”
Hooper, who is ASU’s first university risk manager – the function previously had been part of Environmental Health and Safety – is beginning to put together a university risk management plan, which then will be decentralized.
“Each entity will become part of the risk-prevention culture, to be risk-responsive,” he says. “You have to show people the advantage of being risk-responsive. You haven’t added cost, but value. As the culture shift happens, people will realize that it has created a less-risky environment, and you don’t need to worry so much. And the net truth is that, in the end, it saves everyone money.”
Leon Igras, the director of Environmental Health and Safety, says his department, with the addition of Hooper, will be providing much more of a risk-management service to the ASU community.
“I believe that Bruce is one of the top university risk managers, and we are very fortunate that he found ASU an appealing opportunity,” Igras says. “Bruce’s work in risk management will complement the rest of the organization’s focus on research safety and security, life safety, and environmental compliance and sustainability.
“Bruce’s addition really allows us to offer the full complement of services involving the management of risk and university compliance issues in a rapidly expanding university.”
Adds Kim Novak, who chaired the search committee: “Bruce Hooper brings a deep appreciation for student involvement in proactive risk management efforts and will serve as a valuable resource – not only to faculty and staff, but also to the students and student organizations at ASU.”
Hooper, an outdoorsman who graduated from the University of Wyoming and knows almost every nook and cranny of his native state, says he’s looking forward to seeing Arizona, playing some golf and dealing with different sorts of risk than some of the common ones at the University of Wyoming.
“People used to call us to remove badgers and gophers,” he says.