ASPA Member Highlight – Merv Dahl, Risk and Insurance Coordinator, Safety Resources, University of Saskatchewan

Written by Karen E. Mosier

Merv majored in Psychology and History and obtained his BA from the University of Manitoba in 1974. He completed his Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) in October 1985 and his Certificate in Risk Management (CRM) in March 2005.

Like many risk and insurance people, he found himself in the risk management industry by chance. Merv started working for a couple of large insurance companies in Manitoba and took a job in Saskatoon for what he thought would be a brief change of scenery. “Not so brief” as he says, 34 years later. After his ‘all lines’ underwriting experience for various national insurers, Merv made the move to Saskatoon, subsequently shifted gears into claims adjusting, and finally came upon a search for a job at the University of Saskatchewan’s Risk Management Department. Merv says he considers himself fortunate to have been selected in 2000 and more importantly, to have been mentored by a true RM professional who became a very good friend.

The Risk Management Department at the University of Saskatchewan eventually became a one-man show and Merv expects this will continue to be the case, with Enterprise Risk Management recently having been contracted out. “I can’t stress enough that I really am not a one-person department; my risk management team includes many departments throughout the campus. I rely heavily upon Protective Services, Safety Resources, Facilities Management, our IT department, our International Office, and Legal Services —to name a few. ” To Merv, this exposure to various groups is part of what makes the job so exciting. “It’s why I love what I do,” he says. “Not a week goes by where I don’t come across something new and different, and sometimes bizarre. My focus is to guide my many colleagues through what can seem like a maze of risk and risk mitigation.” He says that “a quick tally” of just the major construction projects handled by his office in his time at the university exceeds 1.2 billion dollars.

Nuclear insurance was one such very interesting learning experience for Merv, who says, “I’m not a nuclear expert, far from it, but I now know what I need to know for insurance purposes.” Like most universities, the University of Saskatchewan has a strong international presence, both with a large number of international students and many Saskatchewan students studying abroad. Merv believes that this constantly increasing focus on internationalization is an evolving challenge to the risk management business, but he strongly believes that travel is, or should be, an essential part of everyone’s education. This has sparked a serious interest in travel for Merv, who has been to China, Morocco, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Peru, Iceland, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, all within the last 6 years. He laughs, as he says his history education is now finally put to use as the impetus of his choice of travel destinations.

Merv has been an ASPA employee for almost 20 years. Merv appreciates that ASPA has his back and handles negotiations and looks after member benefits so he does not have to worry about these things. A continuing challenge is to stay informed in the insurance business. Merv uses his APDA funds to attend a yearly insurance conference to keep up-to-date on insurance and risk issues.

Merv believes that the University of Saskatchewan is a unique place to work in risk management due to its broad scope of activities and facilities, as each provides its own unique risk and insurance challenges. Each offers Merv a chance to learn about and familiarize himself with risks,

insurance coverage, and claims that were never contemplated by his underwriting and claims adjusting beginnings. He looks forward to learning more about the University’s strategic goals and how he can contribute to achieving them. Merv’s advice to other ASPA members is “Do your job, do it well, and take pride in it”.

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