“When I was five,” says Louisa Harbage, “I came to an alumni reunion at Wooster and announced in no uncertain terms that this was where I was going to go to college.”
While her parents, both Wooster alums, may have been surprised by such decisiveness at that tender age, Harbage was as good as her word. Choosing a major once she got here, however, was not so straightforward. She first intended to major in studio art, but while she enjoyed the creative process, Harbage found herself becoming more and more interested in cultural and anthropological questions about why people create art, so she decided to major in art history instead.
A semester in France turned into two, and along the way, Harbage decided to make one more change, to French. She added a minor in math to placate her father, who had earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Wooster. (Her mother majored in psychology.) And thanks to the flexibility and support of the French department faculty, she was still able to focus her I.S. on art history — examining the construction and iconography of a 13th century Gothic chapel built for Louis IX — she just had to write her thesis in French.
After graduating in 2003, Harbage joined Progressive Insurance where, thanks to that math minor, she was put to work doing actuarial analysis: applying statistical modeling to pricing, loss reserving, and marketing. Over time, her focus sharpened to marketing alone.
In 2008, she moved to EMB, a business-to-business property and casualty insurance consulting and software company, as director of marketing for North America. Working in the company’s North American headquarters in San Diego, Harbage manages all aspects of the marketing portfolio, from print ads, direct mail, and the website to events and public relations.
EMB counts 19 of the top 20 U.S. insurers among its clients, and three of the top five in Canada, including a couple in Quebec, which means Harbage is getting to use her French, too, working with clients and translating proposals and presentations. With the recent acquisition of EMB by Towers Watson, a global professional services company with operations around the world, Harbage is anticipating more travel in her future.
How well did Wooster prepare her for professional success? “You can’t overrate the value of independent thinking,” Harbage says. “I don’t know how many times I’ve had a manager say to me ‘You look at problems in new ways, think differently, and see issues on the horizon before we do.’ That’s all thanks to Wooster.”
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