Author: Kaylin Bowen

Crawford Defends Dissertation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Shane Crawford successfully defended his dissertation, “Econometric Modeling Framework for Measurement of Resilience Dimensions and Enhanced Spatiotemporal Data Collection Tools to Support Resilience Models,” in August and will officially graduate in December with a doctorate in civil engineering. He has accepted a post-doctoral research position at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins where he will work for roughly four months before moving to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to work as a post-doctoral researcher.

In his work with Dr. Andrew Graettinger in the College of Engineering, he has worked with Colorado State and NIST researchers in the past and will continue to build those relationships as he works directly with them. Crawford will continue to pursue community resilience research which looks at the rate and standard of recovery after a natural disaster takes place. Previous research has collected qualitative data, Crawford’s specialization looks to collect quantitative data that can be used to inform future recovery efforts.

“I’ve had the great opportunity to work in the GIS research lab that is well-funded and we have this equipment that we can learn new methods for analysis,” Crawford said. “About half of my dissertation was updated data collection methods using new technology.”

Crawford’s dissertation focused on filling the gap in resilience measurement science and defining the standards that researchers use to determine recovery. He helped develop a way to take a theoretical resilience curve that has been used in previous literature and applied numbers to it that created empirical curves for Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado. He then used econometric models, a form of regression analysis, to correlate characteristics of the community with those measurements.

“Natural disaster research collaboration was key to my research and working outside of engineering to find ways for engineering and insurance to work together and figure out how to account for the interrelated parts of the two domains has been really beneficial,” Crawford said.

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research funded Crawford’s assistantship to further drive the center’s mission to fund and participate in research relating to improving insurance conditions for Alabama residents. Catastrophe research like Crawford’s will help inform future building codes and construction standards to lessen the effect of natural disasters on the state’s infrastructure. This will lessen the impact on insurance companies and reduce the risk of rate increases.

“Shane did an excellent job,” said Graettinger, Crawford’s dissertation advisor and committee chair. “His resilient community research is some of the most interesting and engaging research that I have been involved with. Many students and faculty attended his defense to learn from a true expert in the field of resilient modeling. Dr. Shane Crawford will be an excellent research in the future and I am looking forward to working with him in the future.”

Crawford additionally holds a bachelor’s of science and master of science in civil engineering from the University of Alabama.

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.

Inter-professional Breakfast Highlights Center’s Achievements

The Capstone College of Nursing organized an interprofessional research breakfast in Capstone Village on April 5 to highlight the ongoing work of the ACIIR. Dr. Lars Powell was asked to speak before the group of twenty nursing undergraduate and graduate students as well as administration from the College of Nursing and representatives from the College of Commerce.

Powell’s presentation gave a brief overview of the center’s mission and goals before detailing a few of the completed and ongoing projects that the ACIIR is currently pursuing.

“I didn’t even know that [FORTIFIED HomeTM retrofitting] was an option,” said Christine Ferguson, a graduate student studying nutrition. “I just bought a home, and I know we will have to replace the roof in a few years, so that’s just something to consider. It’s eye-opening.”

The interprofessional breakfasts are designed to increase awareness and strengthen connections between the University of Alabama’s various colleges. The breakfasts are typically held twice a year and feature presentations from researchers, authors and community professionals.

Rebeckah Gaydosh, a junior majoring in nutrition, said she was most interested in the resale value of homes that have a Fortified standard since it is applicable to everyday life.

The next interprofessional breakfast is scheduled to take place in the fall semester of 2018.

Meet Our Partners in Resiliency

Strengthen Alabama Homes program (SAH) was initially funded in 2016 by the Alabama State Legislature and private donors including the Federal Home Loan Bank and the AIUA. Since then the program has completed 1,043 fortifications and awarded 1,266 grants to help Alabama homeowners afford wind mitigation construction on their homes to protect against severe storms, high winds, and wind-driven rain. The program is currently available for existing, owner-occupied, single-family homes in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. However, inland homes will be eligible for the next round of funding.

SAH requires the Bronze or Silver standard of the FORTIFIED HomeTM program developed by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) be met to qualify for the grant program. The FORTIFIED program is designed to construct or retrofit homes to a high resiliency focusing on roofing, entry points and the continuous load path.

Grants provided by SAH will pay 100 percent of the mitigation costs up to $10,000. Any additional costs are the responsibility of the applicant. The grant is only applicable to homes that reach at least the Bronze standard and are certified by a FORTIFIED evaluator.

The work that the SAH is doing will lower insurance rates in Alabama and make homes more resilient and resistant to weather-related damage. When homes are built to withstand wind and rain, insurance companies don’t have to pay out as much, therefore, helping to lower the premiums charged to individuals.

Since it’s implantation SAH has received a healthy supply of applications. Currently, they are unable to accept new applications as they work to raise additional funding. Due to the success of the program so far, the State of Alabama is at the forefront of the country in home mitigation efforts and in the midst of a planning process to determine how to expand their efforts now and in the future.

After completing the SAH home mitigation, homeowners in Alabama are eligible for discounts on their wind damage coverage.

Another reason to fortify your home is to increase its resale value. ACIIR partnered with FORTIFIED to evaluate the resale value of homes after achieving a FORTIFIED designation. The study finds that homes sell for roughly seven percent more than equivalent, non-FORTIFIED homes.

Together SAH, ACIIR and FORTIFIED HomeTM are working to better protect against loss during a severe weather situation and increase resiliency in Alabama communities which are vulnerable to catastrophic hurricanes and tornadoes.

Prepare for Theft with Comprehensive Coverage

There are many reasons to purchase a home or auto insurance policy such as financial protection in case of fire, storm or earthquake damage, requirements set by local regulations and help with replacement costs in the event of an accident. However, one reason that often gets overlooked is the possibility of theft.

Homeowners, renters, and auto insurance offer options that can help cover the cost of replacing broken, damaged, or stolen items. However, insurers can only help when the insurance policy is in place.

In 2016, the total value of stolen property was $257,279,623 in the state of Alabama alone, according to the State of Alabama Law Enforcement annual crime report.  Only 17 percent of the property was recovered.

While Tuscaloosa has seen a general declining trend in burglary, robbery, auto theft, and unlawful breaking and entering of a motor vehicle over the past 10 years, there were still more than a hundred of each crime reported to the Tuscaloosa Police Department in 2016 according to TPD’s annual report.

Anyone who owns a home should review and update their policy to cover cases of theft and property damage from unlawful activities.

Tenants who rent or lease their space should invest in low-cost renters’ insurance policies. The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research has published a brochure to help streamline the process of choosing and purchasing a policy. This resource can be found here.

While property stolen from an automobile is covered by homeowners or renters insurance, automobile owners should talk to their agents about comprehensive coverage that covers the costs of repairing damages to their vehicles from a break-in as well as the cost of a stolen vehicle.

ACIIR Sponsors New Research

Mandatory workers’ compensation insurance is required in all states except Texas. However, Tennessee and South Carolina are considering adopting an “opt-out” clause similar to that employed by Texas. Alabama fits the profile to also consider making an opt-out clause available in the state.

Dr. Steve Buchheit wanted to know whether a change such as this would be favorable to workers in Alabama. He conducted a study that surveyed 80 respondents through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform in June 2017.

“Surprisingly to me, people were generally happy with workers’ compensation,” Buchheit said. “Before going into a politically charged attempt to allow Alabama companies out of workers’ comp – given that people were happy with the system – you may not want to do that.”

The survey manipulated two court cases, one where workers’ compensation was a positive factor, the other it was negative. Results indicate that participants understood the benefits and limitations of both situations, but retained their original positive belief in workers’ compensation.

The participants who indicated that they had prior experience with filing for workers’ compensation had a higher opinion of the system and were happier with it overall.

“In general, anything that is mandated and required, I presumed people were going to find fault with it,” Buccheit said. “It’s imperfect but in general it is not a disliked program.”

At a state level, similar states are considering adopting a clause that allows opting out, but the data in this paper would suggest there does not seem to be a lot of motivation for that from workers.

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research (ACIIR) sponsored Buchheit’s research on worker’s compensation insurance as part of an initiative to encourage insurance research on a variety of topics to inform and educate state lawmakers, insurers and policyholders.

“Prof. Buchheit’s research fits well in ACIIR’s mission,” said ACIIR Director Dr. Lars Powell. “We were pleased to sponsor his efforts and look forward to working with him again. Insurance is a rich and broad topic with lots of opportunity to answer relevant questions.”

Buchheit said future insurance research on this topic may look into professional groups who might have a different view on the matter.

Dr. Buchheit is a professor in the University of Alabama Culverhouse School of Accountancy. His past research has included research into manipulated accounting in hospitals regarding Medicaid, and dishonest tax itemization of non-cash charitable deductions.

ACIIR Releases Renter’s Insurance Guide

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. –Retail sales are up from last year, and that means renters have more household items to protect. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) recommends renters add a review of their existing insurance coverage to their financial to-do list.

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce has partnered with the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, to produce the online interactive Renters Insurance Guide and a printable brochure highlighting the importance of purchasing renter’s insurance.

“A renter’s insurance policy can provide a safety net in the event of an accident to help cover the cost of replacing personal items as well as accidental injury coverage for guests staying at the insured property,” said Lars Powell, director of the Alabama Center for Insurance Information.

“This is the perfect time to get your financial house in order, and an evaluation of your insurance policies should always be part of that effort,” says Chris Hackett, senior director of personal lines policy for PCI. “Updating your insurance policies can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re properly covered for any unexpected events that may occur in the new year.”

“A renter’s insurance policy gives parents, students, workers, and empty-nesters peace of mind that their personal possessions are covered and will be replaced should an unforeseen event like a fire or theft happen,” said Hackett.

It is in everyone’s best interest to have renter’s coverage and talking with your insurer or agent is a great first step. The average consumer spends $1,092 on coffee each year.  However, a renter’s insurance policy on average costs $240 per year.

A typical homeowners insurance policy will provide 10 percent of the personal property coverage limit for items kept away from home such as in a dorm. On the other hand, renter’s insurance also covers the items that students typically take with them to an off-campus apartment.

However, renter’s insurance also provides other important protection such as Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage to help with expenses should the apartment become uninhabitable due to a covered loss such as a fire. Liability coverage can protect you if a guest injures themselves while visiting your apartment. It’s always good advice to read over your policy to understand what is, and what is not covered.

Renters insurance is affordable and can frequently be bundled with auto insurance to help keep costs low. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the landlord’s insurance will replace the tenant’s personal possessions.  A landlord’s policy will only cover structural damage to the building from fire or wind. The personal belongings of a tenant are not covered under a landlord’s policy.

“As students head back to school with new laptops, tablets, printers, mobile devices, bicycles, stereo equipment, televisions and hard to replace items, it is important to consider protecting them from theft, fire, and accidental loss,” added Powell.

The Online Interactive Renters guide is available here:

Renters Insurance Brochure

For more information, visit

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research provides credible information and research insight for the benefit key stakeholders across the state of Alabama, including policymakers, the public, insurance companies, intermediaries, trade groups, and other parties who need information concerning the management risk. ACIIR is dedicated to providing facts and truths to parties who directly contribute to the economic development of Alabama.

PCI is composed of nearly 1,000 member companies, representing the broadest cross-section of insurers of any national trade association. PCI members write $216 billion in annual premium, 36 percent of the nation’s property casualty insurance. Member companies write 43 percent of the U.S. automobile insurance market, 29 percent of the homeowners market, 34 percent of the commercial property and liability market and 36 percent of the private workers compensation market.

FORTIFIED Assessment

The University of Alabama College of Engineering in partnership with the Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research, also known as ACIIR, recently sent a team of 13 to areas of Florida impacted by Hurricane Irma to assess damages for a comparative study examining the benefits of FORTIFIED HomeTMconstruction.

Read more at the UA Research News Center.

1708052, faculty headshots daniel bauer

IRMAS Hires Two Faculty Members

1708102, New Faculty Orientation reception headshots, shot 08-21-17
George Zanjani
1708052, faculty headshots daniel bauer
Daniel Bauer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – As the first full month of classes draws to a close at The University of Alabama, two new hires in the Culverhouse College of Commerce have settled into their roles. Dr. George Zanjani, ACAS and Dr. Daniel Bauer joined the college’s Insurance & Financial Services, Risk Management, and Actuarial Science (IRMAS) program over the summer.

Bauer and Zanjani bring with them more than 30 entries in academic publications, and the intent to continue to grow their scholarly literature. Their addition to Culverhouse is part of an ongoing strategic plan to grow and improve the college for years to come.

Prior to joining the university, Zanjani served as the inaugural holder of the AAMGA Distinguished Chair in Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) and an associate professor in the RMI Department of Georgia State University (GSU). He served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for eight years, specializing in policy work relating to insurance issues in the broader financial system.

“I have a lot to be excited about in joining the IRMAS program,” said Zanjani. “Most importantly, I think Bill Rabel, Robert McLeod, Lars Powell, Harris Schlesinger and the other faculty and staff involved with insurance education and research at Culverhouse have built an incredible foundation for success at Culverhouse.”

Zanjani fills the position of Frank Park Samford Chair of Insurance, which was previously held by Harris Schlesinger, who passed away in 2015. The Chair of Insurance is named in memory of Frank Park Samford Sr., a member of the Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame and the namesake of Samford University.

Bauer has also worked at Georgia State University before making the transition to UA. He held the position of Batten Chair in Actuarial Science and Director of GSU’s Master of Mathematical Risk Management program. Additionally, Bauer taught actuarial science, statistics/analytics, and quantitative methods in finance in the Risk Management and Insurance Department at the Robinson College of Business at GSU.

“With UA’s legacy in insurance education and research…I believe UA has the potential to become one of the global hubs for insurance-related research,” said Bauer. “I am very excited to be a part of this.”

Bauer has been appointed the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company Endowed Chair in Actuarial Science and Risk Management. This chair is in honor of Tsuneta Yano, the founder of Dai-ichi Life. Bauer is the first to ­­­­hold this title.

Bauer and Zanjani’s addition to the department brings with it new ideas and experience.

“With myself and Daniel Bauer joining the faculty, I think we have an excellent opportunity to build on the foundation set before us,” said Zanjani. “For example, in the actuarial space, the revolution in “Big Data” and analytics is expanding opportunities for actuaries to add value, and we will strive to prepare our stude­­nts for this new world.”

Additionally, their added enthusiasm has the potential to invigorate students to start their own research.

“The students are motivated and extremely smart—and based on my experience in the first weeks, there seems to be a lot of interest in actuarial science,” said Bauer. “With the support of the college administration, I believe we can develop a world-class program.”

The IRMAS program educates students on how risks are managed and financed. The program is provided through the Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies. The curriculum includes traditional classroom instruction as well as opportunities for professional development within the industry.

The IRMAS program works with numerous departments within Culverhouse. The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research (ACIIR), which provides highly credible information and research insight for the benefit key stakeholders across the State of Alabama, and IRMAS partners on many projects including the upcoming Alabama Insurance Day held at the Bryant Conference Center on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

“George and Daniel are both excellent teachers and researchers,” said Lars Powell, Director of ACIIR. “It is not exaggerating to say they are among the best insurance minds anywhere. Having access to their expertise will expand ACIIR’s capabilities.”

UA Researchers Demonstrate Debris Canon

University of Alabama students and faculty in the College of Engineering tested FEMA approved storm shelter wall panels using their custom-built debris canon on September 13, 2017.

This demonstration is part of an ongoing research endeavor to better understand the effect of wind-borne debris during severe weather events on structures. This data can be used to help build cheaper, more robust homes and businesses.

The Alabama Center for Insurance Information and Research (ACIIR) sponsored construction of the cannon and works closely with the engineering department to use the data across different fields.

The cannon fired an 8-ft long wooden 2×4 at 100 miles per hour for this demonstration, but the canon can be loaded with any debris that may be a projectile during a severe weather event.

ACIIR Executive Director Lars Powell is available to discuss the implications of the debris canon testing and its relation to ACIIR research endeavors.

View the story at The Tuscaloosa News or WBRC News.

View the photo gallery at The Tuscaloosa News.

Contact ACIIR at or (205) 348-4513.