Appalachian Students Compete in the 2020 National African American Insurance Association National Talent Competition

Three Appalachian State College of Business students, Kyndavee Bichara, William Chisholm, and Sasha Sterling participated in the 2020 National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) National Talent Competition on October 27. They competed against students from six other universities in the virtual event. 

“A key element of NAAIA's mission is to attract young, African-American talent to the industry….We are all singularly focused on creating an experience which will educate and excite students about our industry, establish meaningful and potentially life-changing relationships with industry executives, equip them with valuable skills and learning -- all while offering them the opportunity to compete for internships and/or full-time positions,” said Margarett Redd, Executive Director of NAAIA. 

As with many conferences and events taking place this year, NAAIA faced a set of unique challenges both for the team sponsors who work with the students and the students who usually attend the conference to present in person. Traditionally, the NAAIA conference has professional development or industry-specific sessions with the case competition taking up a portion of the conference. This year, the National Talent Competition was the main event. When asked why it was important to have the conference set up with this student-focused program center-stage, Margarett said, “NAAIA did not waver in terms of our commitment to attract talent to the industry. In fact, we were convinced that because of the challenges presented by the pandemic, it was critically important to push past the challenges and find a way to offer the program. Not only did our partners agree but with seven (7) teams, we were thrilled to have the largest group in the history of the program.” 

This year’s case study centered around challenges faced with employee hiring, retention and claims practices amid COVID-19. “The number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs increased by 344,000 to 2.9 million in July according to the US Bureau of Statistics. This is a real problem due to the decades-long progress to make women equal in the workplace now reversing,” declared Sasha Sterling with the Appalachian team. 

When asked by one of the judges about the importance of company culture right now, Kynda Bichard replied how, “company culture drives how hard people work.”  William Chisholm discussed solutions in the claims environment, “Communication is the most important training [in assisting] customers in being adaptable to changes [in the claims process].”

Each team was paired with a corporate sponsor to provide mentorship and guidance in the research and presentation. Appalachian State was sponsored by the IAT Group. 

“Throughout our time working together, our favorite part was getting to know the students. Hopefully, we were able to provide insight into an industry where they can see themselves flourishing! We couldn’t be prouder of the progress that was made in a short amount of time and know that Kyndavee, Sasha, and William have bright futures ahead,” said Lindsay Spann, Employee Engagement Specialist with the IAT Group. She along with John Passaro, Senior Vice President of Management Liability & Jeff Trimarchi, Vice President & Senior Underwriting Legal Counsel served as mentors for the students.

William is a senior RMI major with minors in Employee Benefits and Apparel Design and Merchandising. Kyndavee is a junior International Business major with a minor in Arabic. Sasha is a sophomore RMI, Finance and Banking double major with a minor in data analytics.  All team members will receive a scholarship through NAAIA for participating in the Talent Competition. This year’s scholarships were sponsored by the Spencer Foundation. 

To learn more about the National African American Insurance Association please visit:


About the Brantley Risk & Insurance Center

The Brantley Risk & Insurance Center at Appalachian State University's Walker College of Business enhances the academic experience by providing space and staff to assist risk management and insurance majors with networking, job placement preparation, and contact with faculty members outside the classroom. It provides students opportunities to participate in professional designation and licensing programs and invites industry leaders to participate in classes and speak to student organizations. It also fosters research and faculty development, assists the insurance industry in the design and delivery of continuing education programs, and helps educate the public about the insurance industry. Learn more at

Appalachian's Risk Management & Insurance Program is the sixth-largest in the country according to Business Insurance magazine. The college's Brantley Risk and Insurance Center, founded in 1988 with support from the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina, supports research and faculty development, assists the insurance industry in the design and delivery of training and continuing education programs, and facilitates interaction between students, faculty and the professionals in the insurance industry. Appalachian is designated a Global Center of Insurance Excellence by the International Insurance Society. 

Published: Oct 30, 2020 2:10pm