59 credit union professionals, including 13 CUES members, braved ‘the cold’ to complete mindset-expanding experiential training.
As a Southern girl, I have a rule that I only visit Madison, Wisconsin, from May through September; anything below 65 is freezing to me. Yet, when Tobi Weingart, chief program officer at the National Credit Union Foundation, called to ask me to co-facilitate the Credit Union Development Educator program during the last week of October, I packed my super warm Patagonia nano, socks and hand warmers to accept this dream assignment. I landed in Madison to greet 48-degree weather, yet the 59 people I met that week filled my cup and warmed my heart tremendously.
The registrants agreed to “trust the process” as they completed an experiential training that promotes the education and application of credit union business principles and philosophy. The foundation assembled teams of nine strangers to explore the social and business case for why credit unions exist and how “people helping people” is more than a mantra. Participants dove deep into the credit union principles, dissecting how empathy and inclusion open the door of opportunity for credit union professionals to help our members achieve financial health and well-being while addressing development issues that impact people worldwide. There was laughter, tears, competition and much respect in that room.
The foundation requires participants to check their titles at the door. Each person had the opportunity to lead and learn without expecting someone else in a CEO or a more senior leadership role to make the decisions. They also had the opportunity to feel valued, whether they were old or new to the credit union industry or the fictitious credit unions they created. They instantly created a culture we could all benefit from experiencing at least once in our careers.
I was most proud of the CEOs, whom I witnessed finding their tribes in extraordinary ways. They did not have to be “on,” say the right things or leave themselves at home. They smiled, hugged, put down their phones and joined in all the silliness from the skits, games and final projects with fearless energy.
The CUES member graduates are:
- Darian Cobb, community strategies manager, Local Government FCU
- Amy Krasikov, VP/digital experience, Raiz FCU
- Dorothy Badia, payments manager, Christian Financial CU
- Nadine Buerger, ARNIA Foundation executive eirector, US Eagle FCU
- Cynthia Johnson, specialist, Ent CU
- Danijel Ljuna, VP/MCC Service, Suncoast CU
- Joseph Meicher, consumer loan underwriter, Royal CU
- James Gagliano, chief experience officer, First Commonwealth FCU
- Aaron James, senior executive assistant/finance and risk, Twinstar CU
- Gene Turner, financial advisory services specialist, State Employees CU
- Aubrey Ward, board member, Veridian CU
- Angela Capoccia, assistant manager/financial risk, SchoolsFirst FCU
- Lori Williams, financial education specialist, Unitus Community CU
At CUES, we take pride in arming leaders at all levels with business acumen and leadership resources to be successful in their roles. It was a privilege to witness leadership skills, perspective and empathy collide in a way that reignited purpose in everyone’s professional journey.
There are more than 2,500 people around the U.S. who will try to convince you that they are in the “Best Class Ever” of CUDEs. I feel that Fall 2015 is the “Best Class Ever.” However, kudos to the October 2023 graduates. You are exceptional, and witnessing your journey was just the warmth I needed to serve this fantastic industry.
Jimese Harkley, JD, CUDE, SPP, CCE, is VP/membership for CUES.