Meet Baumhart Scholar Annie Weinheimer
By Jaycie Weathers, Student Reporter
Annie Weinheimer is an Engagement Manager at Ryan Specialty Group, a wholesale insurance brokerage company. Outside of her job functions, Annie passionately pursues her goal of improving racial equity and diversity and inclusion in the private sector. At Ryan Specialty Group, Annie works in business development at a tech startup called, The Connector, that is dramatically changing the way small commercial E&S insurance is marketed and serviced. Outside of that she has been helping work with leadership to develop the company's DEI initiatives. Annie followed in her father’s footsteps when she began her career in the nonprofit sector, but has transitioned to the private sector after realizing its potential for driving social change.
Baumhart Center: What sparked your interest to be a social business leader?
Annie Weinheimer: I am very heavily involved in Old St. Patrick’s Church in the West Loop – my parents were married there, I was raised there – and it’s very social justice oriented. I think from a very young age I was trained to look at the world through this lens. Social impact and service has always been a common theme in my family, as well. Growing up, we had regular conversations around the dinner table about our role in societal issues and how we cannot sit idly by while systems continue to operate for us and against others. Old St. Pat’s has been a huge influencer for me. I would say a more recent role model for me is Pastor Chris Harris who is a Baptist pastor on the South Side of Chicago at Bright Star Church. I met him through Northwestern and its partnership with Bright Star’s trauma-informed call center initiative. I got to know about the violence touching his neighborhood and how we can take preventative measures as opposed to responding after the fact. The first time we met, I essentially asked him to be my formal mentor and to educate me on racial equity. Through his mentorship, I have been able to see different parts of Chicago and get a better understanding of the socioeconomic and racial barriers that separate us. He has been a huge factor in the last three or four years of me pivoting sectors, and understanding how I can make large scale change. Those factors, amongst many others in my life have fostered a deep responsibility to create social change in my personal and professional life.
BC: What drew you to the Baumhart Scholars program? What are you hoping to accomplish throughout your MBA experience?
AW: I had been toying with the idea of pivoting careers and moving from nonprofit work into the private sector. The idea of moving sectors was very foreign to me, but I ultimately made the move and realized there is a ton of opportunity for corporations in Chicago to really take an active role in what is happening in our city. It's not only a moral obligation, but it's smart business. And society is demanding it at this point from the for profit sector. I believe it is paramount to ingrain impact into a for-profit company. So when I learned about Baumhart Scholars, I knew it was a program truly in line with my desire to drive impact in the private sector.
BC: Within your organization, how are you promoting social business and social responsibility? What are your immediate goals and long-term visions for your company?
AW: I recently met with some members of the executive team at RSG to brainstorm DEI initiatives across our company. We are focused on making this a priority and really investing in this area, and I'm really excited about that. We are in the process of creating a framework for DEI and we are thinking about things like trainings, business resource groups, DEI council, etc. My vision is that we, as a company, can move the needle on inclusion, and our efforts eventually snowball and create large scale change.
BC: What has been your proudest achievement in your professional life?
AW: It’s cliché, but this program. I’m so thrilled to be a Baumhart Scholar and learning from the people that are in my cohort, and the mentors. Laura Coy is my mentor and she has been an incredible resource and friend to me. Seth and Emily are absolutely vital to this program, as well. This has been my biggest accomplishment so far, and I believe it’s going to take me soaring in directions I didn’t even know were possible.
BC: Who’s your role model and why? What values do they hold and how do you strive to emulate them?
AW: I have so many role models – My parents, Pastor Harris, Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyoncé. They and so many others are role models for me because they are being the change that they want to see in the world and I am so inspired by that. I want to be someone who is living and breathing what I preach. It’s so important to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. The people who are constantly doing things to show who they are, what they believe in, and ultimately creating substantive change, are the people that motivate me.
BC: If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of career advice what would it be?
AW: I would say don’t hold onto the singular path that you envisioned for yourself. A lot of the things in my life would not be there if I didn't take some risks and say yes to things that lead me down a new and exciting path.