Ask the Foundation to Help Fund Your Professional Development

For more than half a century, Western CUNA Management School (WCMS) has helped up-and-coming credit union professionals become productive as leaders at their credit unions and within the larger movement. Its challenging curriculum provides a truly holistic credit union education, covering strategic planning, operations, finance, marketing, lending, human resources, technology, business development, economics, business law, communications, leadership, and much more.

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) is working to make this education more accessible than ever as it continues to offer sizeable scholarships for credit union leaders interested in attending WCMS.

Norma Hernandez, president and COO of Express Credit Union, graduated from WCMS in 2011 and was able to attend the program thanks in part to a Foundation scholarship. As the leader of a small credit union, her access to continuing education programs like WCMS is contingent on finding outside funding.

“With a small credit union like mine, I would have never have been able to have gone had it not been for the scholarship,” Hernandez said. “It just wouldn’t have happened.”

WCMS is designed for managers and upper-level operational staff, and students attend two-week terms over the course of three consecutive summers. The faculty is composed of professors and attorneys as well as respected credit union professionals and consultants. To encourage full immersion in the educational atmosphere, students live in the dorms at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., and eat in its dining halls.

“It was not what I had expected it to be when I first signed up,” Hernandez said. “It really does give you more of a college feel, since you live in the dorms and actually work with the other students side by side constantly. I learned quite a bit, because the school doesn’t just cover your general credit union business, it covers HR, communications, becoming a better leader in the industry. It talks politics and legal—every avenue that a credit union leader would need at some point to do their job better.”

WCMS graduates then leave with a full understanding of a credit union’s entire operation—and with the motivation and commitment to pour their newfound skills and knowledge into their credit union. But they also leave with a number of close contacts from all over the western United States, allowing the WCMS education to continue for years through networking and shared resources.

“They focus more on you and where you want to get in the industry and what you need out of the industry,” Hernandez said, “and then it’s about what you can contribute to the industry. So, it’s more about the individual student than about their particular credit union. They focus on making you a stronger leader and member of the credit union community.”

The Foundation scholarship application process is simple, with amounts of as much as $2000 awarded based on a combination of financial need and merit. The deadline to apply for a WCMS scholarship is March 15, 2012.

Additional scholarships to attend WCMS are also offered by WCMS itself. The WCMS scholarship application is available on the WCMS website, along with registration information and a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions. Tuition information and registration forms for new students became available on Oct. 12, 2011, and as space is limited, potential students are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

Foundation scholarships are also available for other Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) training and development events, with the next application deadline set for March 15. Hernandez explained how taking advantage of the funding available through the Foundation has helped her develop as an individual and helped her entire credit union to grow in ways that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

“As a small credit union, I don’t have to convince leadership to allocate funds,” she said. “For 80 percent of the training I‘ve received over the last five years, I’ve received Foundation money. If it hadn’t been for their generosity, I’d have never been able to advance the way I have.

“It allows my staff to get training as well, and they get training they wouldn’t get otherwise. There’s just no way we could cover all those discussion topics if there wasn’t someone bringing it to us, and since there’s so much to be discussed, we wouldn’t be able to afford to cover all of it. It helps make us a better staff.”

For more information about Foundation scholarships for WCMS and other training programs, visit the Foundation’s website. To learn more about WCMS and to read an inspiring first-person testimonial from Valley Credit Union President and CFO Chris Monti, a recent graduate of WCMS, click here.


Questions? Contact Northwest Credit Union Foundation Development Associate Josalyn Alston: 206.340.4814,

Posted in Events, NWCUA.