Homeland Security official to speak at Commencement

Posted on January 27, 2010 by Staff Writer

On Saturday, May 15, Sweet Briar College will welcome Debra Elkins ’93 back to campus as the 2010 commencement speaker.

Elkins, recently appointed as a section chief with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will speak on “Liberal Arts at SBC: A Strong Basis for Designing and Engineering Our Future.” The talk will emphasize the privilege of a Sweet Briar education, discovering a fulfilling career path and giving back to the community.

Elkins, who received a master’s in mathematics and a doctorate in industrial engineering from Texas A&M University, previously worked at Allstate Insurance in Northbrook, Ill., developing countrywide automotive insurance risk pricing models and insurance fraud risk profiling models. Prior to Allstate, she served as the technical lead for enterprise risk modeling at the General Motors’ research and development center in Warren, Mich. Her research interests include risk modeling and simulation for enterprise operations, vulnerability analysis and disruption consequence modeling, and applied probability/stochastic processes.

Elkins is serving a second three-year appointment on the National Academies Board on Mathematical Sciences and Their Applications, and recently completed service on a 15-month National Academies congressionally mandated committee to review the Department of Homeland Security’s approach to risk analysis. Elkins has reviewed numerous grant proposals for the DHS Centers of Excellence program and briefed the U.S. National Defense University/Industrial College of the Armed Forces on global manufacturing and supply chain risks. Elkins has also been an invited speaker on enterprise risk management for non-financial services firms at the National Academies and with the Internal Revenue Service.

Elkins received her B.S. in mathematical physics, summa cum laude, from Sweet Briar, where she graduated as the Emilie Watts McVea Scholar — the highest ranking member of the graduating class. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, received the Walker Family Award as the “senior of above-average academic standing best possessing cheerful disposition, and showing warmth, generosity and humility of spirit,” and volunteered as the SBC Vixen mascot.

“I’m very pleased to represent the Class of 1993 in welcoming the Class of 2010 to the active and vibrant network of Sweet Briar alumnae,” Elkins said. “It’s definitely a thrill to be asked to give back to SBC in this capacity.”

The Elkins family is also represented at Sweet Briar by the late Judith M. Elkins (mother), professor emeritus and former chair of the mathematics department; Rachel Elkins Thompson ’91 (sister) former associate director of admissions; Sarah Elkins Ince ’99 (cousin) former associate director of admissions; and Jennifer Rae ’82 (cousin).