Cultivating Leadership at the University Level


Filling the gaps in industry talent that will result from the retirement of baby boomers has been, and remains, a major focus for the industry. Attracting new talent is critical, and The National Alliance is fully invested in developing leadership for our industry. In keeping with that goal, we’ve partnered with a number of colleges and universities to help cultivate the talent entering, and graduating from, some of the top insurance and risk management programs in the country. Keep reading to learn about all the ways that we are working with university students and how you can help—because as this problem continues to manifest, there is every possibility that it will impact your workplace.

Gamma Iota Sigma

Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) is an international professional fraternity organized to promote, encourage, and sustain student interest in insurance, risk management, and actuarial science as professions. The National Alliance has a long-standing relationship with GIS, and when this organization held their 47th Annual International Conference, in Chicago, IL, our team was there. The conference was a great success, attracting over 400 industry leaders and over 600 cream-of-the-crop students. With 82 exhibitors at the Career Fair, informational sessions and panels, and valuable networking opportunities, it is considered the foremost event for the insurance, risk management, and financial industry to engage in a meaningful way with the next generation of industry leaders.

At the conference, company and carrier representatives met with the most accomplished students from multiple schools in a single setting—students who are preparing for careers as risk managers, actuaries, underwriters, brokers, consultants, agents, producers, and other industry roles. Interviews for internships and entry-level positions are conducted on-site during the conference, with multiple offers reported from participating companies and organizations.

The National Alliance is a Sustaining Partner of GIS, and as such, representatives of The National Alliance’s University Associate (UA) CIC and CRM Programs1 attended the conference. Bob Rogers, CLU, ChFC, Co-Chair of the Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund2, a National Faculty member, Academy Board member, and CIC Mentor, observed, “These are the future leaders of our industry and investing in their educational and professional development is what we do at The National Alliance; we want to encourage these great young people, facilitate networking opportunities for them, and provide scholarships where needed. We are also getting out the good word about the UA Program and the excellence and on-point practicality of The National Alliance curriculum.”

Jennifer Grimes, CIC, CRM, CISR, CSRM, and UA Academic Director, commented, “The UA Program has been a great success. In fact, 29 colleges and universities across the country currently offer students the opportunity to earn the UACIC and/or UACRM designations. The National Alliance, in concert with its scholarship fund—The Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund—and our Research Associates, is accelerating its efforts to grow this number through next year, and beyond.”

Tracy Pitre, CIC, CPRM, CISR, and Media Team Director, expressed her enthusiasm about what The National Alliance team accomplished at the GIS Conference. She said, “We were able to leverage our industry connections to make a warm introduction between students and the appropriate carrier representative or industry leader. We were there not only to talk about our UA Program, but to demonstrate to students that we are invested in them and in their careers. We are in it with them for the long haul. We care that they get into the area of the industry that is right for them and connect with the organization that will help them reach their goals.”

The National Alliance’s efforts with GIS, the Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund, and the UA Program are making a big difference for students at colleges and universities across the country. For a concrete example from just one of these schools, let’s take a closer look at the Insurance and Risk Management (IRM) Program at the University of Houston–Downtown (UHD). The information regarding this program was submitted by Priscilla Oehlert, CIC, CRM, ARM, National Alliance Faculty member and Educational Consultant, and Director of UHD’s Insurance and Risk Management Center.

University of Houston–Downtown

The BBA in Insurance and Risk Management (IRM) program at the University of Houston–Downtown (UHD) is driven by the unique demographics and needs of its students. All of the courses are offered online to accommodate UHD’s working student population, multiple scholarships are awarded to IRM majors/minors each semester, and active industry-involved mentoring directs and facilitates the students toward industry careers resulting in an over 95% career placement rate.

UHD’s students’ success is partly attributable to the IRM program’s focus on offering curricula that leads to professional designations respected throughout the industry. As Oehlert emphasized, “The UACRM credential is one of the reasons UHD IRM grads are some of the most-desired new talent in the industry.”

Oehlert attributes her program’s outstanding curriculum and job placement rates to her Council, a group of highly involved industry professionals, many of whom have served since the program launched in 2009. “The Council is actively involved and supports every aspect of the program—from ensuring an industry-oriented curriculum is offered, to providing financial support for scholarships and resources that enable students to attend industry meetings and conferences, and extending to include internships and full-time employment,” she says. “The program wouldn’t have the success and reputation it has without the resources and talent the Council and the companies they represent provide to UHD’s IRM program.”


One of the most important career-prep opportunities for university students is the chance to intern at insurance agencies and companies. The National Alliance has put a spotlight on the benefits-—for both students and employers—of internships in a session presented at two of the 2018 MEGA seminars. During the Dallas MEGA, four students involved with GIS and/or the UA programs joined a panel discussion chaired by Kathleen McCullough, Ph.D., BBA, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Research and State Farm Insurance Professor, The Dr. William T. Hold/The National Alliance Program in Risk Management, College of Business, Florida State University, and Alexandra Massey, Corporate Relations Coordinator. The session, “The Insurance Industry and the Value of Internships,” was so well received at these venues that it will be repeated at the Denver MEGA in March 2019. (Go to to read an article on the subject.)

It is interesting to note that some of these panelists, like so many of their peers, are holding full-time jobs while they augment their education with university degrees and professional designations. That is not easy—and we commend all of these individuals for their continuing efforts to become “the best” that the industry has to offer.

Get Involved!

There is nothing that can compare to making a contribution that will compound far beyond the initial donation by generating a positive impact that none of us can foresee. We hear it repeatedly from many individuals who would like to make a contribution to the industry that has meant so much to them.

Join us in our work to cultivate bright, motivated talent for the future of our industry. To get involved at an individual level, consider making a donation to the Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund ( Organizations can contribute by becoming Academy Research Associates ( or email And be sure to go to The National Alliance Facebook page to learn more about the inspiring students we met at the GIS conference!

University Associate Program

The National Alliance’s University Associate (UA) Program was created to support educational institutions in their efforts to attract college students into the insurance and risk management industry. It allows students to complete two of the five parts toward their CRM or CIC designation. Those who successfully complete the course of study earn the highest insurance/risk management university-level credentials in the US—the UACRM or UACIC. See a list of the colleges and universities that are currently participating in one or both UA programs at

Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund

The Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund was developed by The National Alliance to honor the memory of a beloved employee who was a student of the industry and had a passion for teaching others. Consequently, it is fitting that the contributions made to this fund are used to create scholarships for university students, defraying the costs of attaining their designations.

The National Alliance awards a number of Jerry Montgomery Memorial Research Fund scholarships to college and university students each year.

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