Successfully Pivoting the S.S. Huebner/ARIA Doctoral Colloquium

For years, the S.S. Huebner Foundation for Insurance Education has been holding a doctorial colloquium. This is a program wherein a select group of risk and insurance Ph.D. students present their research to leading academics and industry experts. They gain both valuable feedback on their work, and presentation experience at a national level. In 2019 ARIA began partnering with Huebner on the event, which was held at ARIA’s in-person Annual Meeting.

In San Francisco on August 4, 2019, eight students participated as Huebner/ARIA doctoral colloquium finalists. Student presentations were presented in plenary sessions, roughly 25-30 minutes in length, followed by roughly 20 minutes for question and answer. The event went well for all involved, and all parties were set to follow with another event in 2020.



Like most conferences in North America, when COVID-19 hit the 2020 colloquium was canceled. In fall 2020 the planning committee began discussing a virtual event. Huebner and ARIA understood that they must be innovative in times of change. As such, on top of moving to virtual, the idea was presented to consider adding a three-minute (3MT) presentation format as a way for the students to qualify for the more comprehensive colloquium experience.

The doctoral colloquium planning team included: Leslie Harrington, Dr. Richard Phillips, John Thielman, and Nick Posey. In the fall of 2020, the team decided on proceeding with the doctoral colloquium in a virtual format with three-minute student presentations.



The Three Minute Thesis (3MT), is a concept born from the University of Queensland and it is as it sounds – students deliver a presentation of their entire thesis in just three minutes. This idea has rapidly gained popularity, having been adopted in 85 countries. The format allows students to hone their research and academic contributions while developing presentation and communication skills. As well, part of the beauty of the 3MT presentation is that it forces students to translate deep technical research and scientific terminology into a simpler, higher-level synopsis. The results also happen to appeal to a broader audience. For example, some of the judging criteria include: make sure the student avoids scientific jargon and explains terminology, does the oration made the audience want to know more, and were the thesis topic, key results, and research significance and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

The 3MT format is also no-nonsense. Each student has a single, static, PowerPoint slide to present which is presented from the beginning of the presentation. There is no music, digital special effects, props other visual aids, singing, or other non-spoken presentation. Those that run over time are disqualified.



Huebner rapidly began accepting submissions as early as January, for the presentation of finalists on March 26th.

The compressed event timeline didn’t allow for much time to promote the event. Nonetheless, interested students submitted three-minute video presentations. Applicants were reviewed by the judging panel. Huebner had a panel of six outstanding academic and industry professional judges who reviewed the presentations.

The judges were: Robert Henrikson, Donna Kinnaird, Anne Kleffner, Jim Moore, Richard Phillips, and Joan Schmit. Though it was a very difficult time for the academic community, and schools across our nation were overtaxed, all judges volunteered readily and were generous with their time and talent.

All judges reviewed all of the presentations and narrowed the submissions down to a list of five student finalists.  ARIA members can watch the finalists’ 3MT video at



On March 26, 2021, the five students presented an expanded 25-minute version of their three-minute thesis to the judging panel of scholars and industry professionals and other interested parties in risk and insurance. The judges provided a substantial amount of feedback, including actionable recommendations to help the students improve their research.

The student finalists were:

  • Julia Holzapfel
  • Haitao Huang
  • Wenchu Li
  • Patrick Ling
  • Carlos Alejandro Nunez

These finalists are considered Huebner Scholars, and each was awarded a cash scholarship of $2,000. Huebner went on to post the presentations of their five fellows online and had website viewers vote for their favorite presentation. This person is called the People’s Choice winner.

The People’s Choice Winner prize went to Carlos Alejandro Nunez, who received an additional $500 as well as being featured in Huebner and ARIA newsletters. All finalists also receive a commemorative plaque recognizing them as Huebner Doctoral Colloquium Scholars.

People’s Choice Winner Carlos Alejandro Nunez


Huebner staff member Leslie Harrington said

“This has been an extraordinary forum for these hardworking Ph.D. students – particularly during the COVID lockdown.  They were hungry for the challenge and for feedback from experts in their field. Despite the pandemic’s obstacles, the Huebner Foundation could still pivot the program to an online format and provide a valuable learning experience. Each student was so grateful, and they all commented on how helpful it was.”



When asked if the doctoral colloquium was going back to in person, or staying a 3MT virtual event, Leslie muses:

“both approaches had value and we’re looking to retain the 3MT, even if we’re going back to an in-person event. Supporting Ph.D. education is critical to the foundation of a thriving risk and insurance industry. These future scholars will conduct valuable research and teach thousands of future professionals.  They play a vital role in creating the pipeline of educated, talented workers. That’s why the Huebner Foundation is dedicated to this work.”

The S.S. Huebner Foundation for Insurance Education is a non-profit organization entirely dedicated to the support of doctoral students in the risk and insurance field. To see the research presentations or find more information about the program visit