January 2015

SJR State Program of the Month - Business

Insuring his career – SJR State student takes steps to stay on top of his industry

Dillon Cunningham MEET DILLON. At the age of 18, Dillon was one of those rare teenagers who found his calling in life right out of high school. He began interning with the ThompsonBaker Insurance Agency while attending SJR State, and his dedication paid off when he was offered a position with the agency after completing his internship. While diving headfirst into the industry exposed him to the many facets of the insurance field, Dillon still thought it would be wise to continue his education. That was when he was approached with a generous offer.

“Greg Baker, chairman of the ThompsonBaker Agency and a mentor of mine, offered to sponsor my insurance specialization courses at St. Johns River State College,” Dillon said. Through this sponsorship, he is currently earning an Associate in Science degree in Business Administration with a specialization in insurance.

“The insurance courses really helped me learn the dynamics of the industry,” he said. “I was able to take what I learned in the courses and implement it daily.” Dillon found that the combination of experience gained on the job and from his classes put him a step above the rest in his field.

One of the first aspects of the program Dillon appreciated was the ability to take all of his classes online. Being able to study online is a great convenience for Dillon while he works full time.

The second aspect that he appreciated was his instructors’ level of expertise. Dillon said he was impressed by the faculty’s master’s degrees and corporate experience. He found that the knowledge he gained from his classes boosted his performance. “I received a lot of instruction, guidance and insight about the industry through Professor Joel Abo,” Dillon said. “He provided our classes with valuable knowledge and resources in addition to his personal insight within the industry.”

After spending three years with the ThompsonBaker Agency, Dillon settled with the Shapiro Insurance Group in Jacksonville, where he is employed as an insurance consultant.

Dillon is quite happy with the success he’s established. Outside of the workplace, Dillon supports his community by serving on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club. In 2014 he received the Special Olympics Outstanding Leadership Award.

Dillon contributes a large part of his success to the positive influence and continuous support from his parents who have encouraged him throughout his life and career. He wants to encourage others to acquire the same prosperity, especially in the insurance industry.

 “I would highly recommend SJR State’s Insurance Specialization program to my peers and advise them to take full advantage of these instrumental courses that the College offers,” he said. “Considering the demand for proficient and articulate employees in the insurance industry, I believe opportunities are endless for those with the discipline and motivation to succeed.” Cunningham hopes to eventually open his own firm after completing his education. He looks forward to his future saying, “The sky’s the limit.”

SJR State partnered with the ThompsonBaker Agency in 2008 with a scholarship program, introducing a series of courses designed to prepare students for employment in the insurance industry. According to Greg Baker, students possessing customer service and account management skills could help meet the growing need for technically trained, qualified insurance associates for independent insurance agencies in St. Johns County as well as throughout the state.

The program specialization at SJR State allows students with a two or four-year degree who obtain the nine credit hours of the approved insurance specialization to qualify for a 440 Customer Service Representative License without further testing.

For more information regarding the courses and admission requirements, contact Joel Abo, SJR State’s director of business education, at (386) 312-4063.