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State insurance chief applauds newest Gamma Iota Sigma members

As president of the MTSU chapter of the Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity, senior Cierra Baker of Athens, Tennessee, can quickly rattle off the benefits of being a member of the honorary professional group.

“You meet a lot people in the industry,” Baker said. “A lot of internships (are available) in the industry and a lot of scholarships.”

Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, speaks during the induction ceremony for the MTSU chapter of the Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity held Wednesday, April 13, in the Business and Aerospace Building. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, speaks during the induction ceremony for the MTSU chapter of the Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity held Wednesday, April 13, in the Business and Aerospace Building. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

A finance and insurance major in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Baker is scheduled to graduate this December, with an internship lined up back home in Athens and with plans to get into sales once she gets her degree.

That’s good news to Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and guest speaker Wednesday, April 13, for the induction ceremony for about a dozen of the newest members of Gamma Iota Sigma inside the Business and Aerospace Building.

“I’m pleased to see so many of you choosing insurance as a major,” McPeak told Baker and the other students, faculty, staff and alumni in attendance. “We really need bright people to be joining our industry right now. … And when you have those degrees, don’t forget about government service, because we need you too.”

Appointed in January 2011 by Gov. Bill Haslam to lead the department of 900-plus employees, McPeak gave an overview of her department’s responsibilities, including the critical roles of TennCare oversight, licensing insurance agents — Tennessee has more than 160,000 licensed agents — and making sure companies selling insurance in the state “are capable of meeting its obligations to consumers.”

The purpose of Gamma Iota Sigma is to encourage, establish and enhance the professionalism of students in the risk management, insurance, and actuarial science majors within the Jones College.

Julie Mix McPeak, left, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, presents a certificate to MTSU international student Bashair Albalushi, a senior business finance major with a minor in insurance, during the induction ceremony for Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity held Wednesday, April 13, in the Business and Aerospace Building. McPeak was guest speaker for the ceremony. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Julie Mix McPeak, left, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, presents a certificate to MTSU international student Bashair Albalushi, a senior business finance major with a minor in insurance, during the induction ceremony for Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity.

Inductee and MTSU senior Bashair Albalushi, an international student from Oman majoring in business finance and minoring in insurance, said her interest in joining the fraternity blossomed once she learned of the community service work that members do, such as homeless outreach.

Dr. Emily Zietz

Dr. Emily Zietz

“I think it will help me out as well when I graduate,” she said, adding that she’ll include fraternity membership on her resume. Also scheduled to graduate in December, Albalushi plans to pursue a master’s degree in finance and eventually land a banking position in the Chicago area.

MTSU junior and inductee Aaliyah Yisrael, a finance and insurance major from Jackson, Tennessee, said she took her first insurance class this spring and credited the encouragement of Dr. Emily Zietz, insurance professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, for prompting her to join the fraternity.

Yisrael said she’s looking forward to “getting to know people in the field” through Gamma Iota Sigma as well as seeing which areas of insurance she most enjoys. Right now, she’s leaning toward insurance underwriting.

For more information about Gamma Iota Sigma, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/gis/. For more information about MTSU’s insurance program, visit http://mtsu.edu/programs/insurance/.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

Julie Mix McPeak, left, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, shakes hands with MTSU junior Aaliyah Yisrael, a finance and insurance major from Jackson, Tennessee, during the induction ceremony for Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity held Wednesday, April 13, in the Business and Aerospace Building. McPeak was guest speaker for the ceremony. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Julie Mix McPeak, left, Tennessee commissioner of commerce and insurance, shakes hands with MTSU junior Aaliyah Yisrael, a finance and insurance major from Jackson, Tennessee, during the induction ceremony for Gamma Iota Sigma insurance fraternity held Wednesday, April 13, in the Business and Aerospace Building.