Partners in Education and Research: ACIIR and LIFT

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research began partnering with the Culverhouse LIFT program in 2017 to help advance the goals of both the center and the program. ACIIR researchers and LIFT Founder and Director Lisa McKinney work together to identify and recruit survey participants for an ongoing analysis of insurance and financial literacy in adult populations through the courses offered by the LIFT program.

The mutually beneficial partnership provides a random sampling of survey participants for the ACIIR staff’s research. The LIFT program receives financial assistance through a grant from the center and the opportunity to better understand how to acquire grants in the future.

“It makes us think more about what we are doing and it makes us think about the potential for obtaining grants,” McKinney said. “It makes complete sense to connect this program with research for it to be funded. All of it makes sense. It’s a nice fit.”

Culverhouse LIFT was founded in August 2015 by McKinney and a graduate student, David Hose. They saw the opportunity to help further The University of Alabama’s mission to educate and better the lives of the people of Alabama. Since it began the program has grown every year. In the spring of 2018 more than 400 student volunteers from the College of Business taught more than 45 different classes in 15 locations around the state.

“Right now, we have so many community partners, I am right now not trying to grow,” McKinney said. “I want to get better at what we do, and I want to work with people to assess if we are doing a good job.”

LIFT offers courses to high school students, adults, veterans and inmates. The courses include professional development, financial literacy, and GED preparation. A full list of the LIFT programs locations and courses can be found at Lift classes range in size from 10 people to full-size high school groups of 30 students.

The program is entirely student-run with McKinney acting as an adviser and general overseer. Graduate students, class leads and student volunteers work together to organize logistics and scheduling. Students have the opportunity to learn new skills themselves and build their resumes as instructors and community helpers.

ACIIR researchers train LIFT students to educate community members about auto insurance and how to administer the survey to working-age adults at neighboring community centers during financial literacy and money management courses. Participants receive insurance information and education in addition to the curriculum provided by LIFT volunteers.

“Partnering with LIFT offers us a great opportunity to fulfill our center’s educational and outreach purposes,” said Boyi Zhuang, ACIIR post-doctoral researcher who works directly with the LIFT program. “The surveys we did before and after the training provide us some valuable data that is beneficial to the center’s research.”

The continued relationship between the ACIIR and LIFT exemplifies the Culverhouse tradition of fueling successful partnerships across industry and education. The ACIIR staff will continue to seek out and seize opportunities to work with talented industry and education groups like LIFT.

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