Northwest Credit Union Professionals Demonstrate Excellence in WCMS Class of 2017


For graduates of the Western CUNA Management School’s (WCMS) Omicron class of 2017, the experiences accrued and relationships formed during the three-year program have been career-defining. The 58th annual session of WCMS came to a close on July 20, at a ceremony at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

Sponsored by the Northwest Credit Union Association in cooperation with Pomona College, WCMS serves credit unions in 13 western states, including Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

It offers a rigorous curriculum for managers and upper-level operational staff who have set credit union management as a career goal, and who want to achieve a deeper understanding of developments in the credit union industry.

Of the 90 WCMS students who graduated in the class of 2017, 26 hailed from the Northwest. In addition, four of the seven students who graduated with high honors—a distinction earned based on exemplary exam and research-project performance—work for Northwest credit unions.

The Northwest high-honors graduates were:

  • Vanessa Broemeling, Marketing Manager for Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union in Lewiston, Idaho;
  • Alex Carlston, AVP of Operations for Great Northwest Federal Credit Union in Aberdeen, Washington;
  • Jeremy Sankwich, Business Development Manager for Verity Credit Union in Seattle, Washington; and
  • Blake Thurman, Chief Financial Officer for Rogue Credit Union in Medford, Oregon.

We reached out to each of these high-performers to find out how the program has transformed their careers.

High-honors graduate Alex Carlston was selected as the 2017 class speaker. In his speech, he challenged classmates to continue their class goal of leaving a “legacy of leadership” in their professional and personal lives. “WCMS is not just about molding the next generation of credit union leadership with the technical and emotional ability to push our movement forward,” he said. “It is also about motivating, inspiring, and stimulating us to make a difference.”

“WCMS had a profound impact on me,” Carlston explained. “I leave with increased knowledge, sharpened management skills, and most importantly, the vision to become an inspirational leader. I appreciate Great Northwest FCU’s investment to enable me to finish the program.”

Vanessa Broemeling echoed this sentiment, and for future students, she emphasized the importance of giving the program your all. “I am humbled that my management team allowed me the opportunity to attend WCMS. I was able to accomplish things I didn’t know I was capable of,” she said. “That’s the beauty of WCMS, if you give everything you have to the experience, you gain complex strategic methods, a fuller heart, and a stronger voice.”

For Jeremy Sankwich, the impact of the program was multifaceted. “For me, WCMS can be defined by three experiences — all of them career defining. One was the instruction by MBA-level professors in specific topics related to growing and leading our movement. Additionally, the two projects required countless hours, but proved invaluable for both myself and my credit union.” Networking with credit union leaders from all over the country also had a profound influence on his career growth. “I built lifelong friendships with classmates and professors while in Pomona for three years!”

Blake Thurman, in addition to high honors, received the Rick Craig Prize for Excellence for his second-year project. The project typically takes each student more than 200 hours to complete.

“While I anticipated gaining significantly through WCMS when it came to networking as well as the subject matter covered in the classes, I did not anticipate the value I would receive from completing the two projects,” said Thurman. “Setting aside time to do a deep dive into various areas within the credit union I work for allowed me to broaden my understanding of how it functions, and deepen my relationships with other leaders, which will serve me well throughout my credit union career.”

Following is the full list of WCMS graduates from Northwest credit unions. Congratulations on your achievements!

  • Vanessa Broemeling, Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union
  • Cora Bentz, Salal Credit Union
  • Alex Carlston, Great Northwest Federal Credit Union
  • Amy Ciciliot, ISU Credit Union
  • Amanda Guzman, Clarity Credit Union
  • Chris Heck, TwinStar Credit Union
  • David Hiatt, Simplot Employees Credit Union
  • Debra Jackson, Spokane Teachers Credit Union
  • Alicia Jones, East Idaho Credit Union
  • Jamie Koster, Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal Credit Union
  • Stephanie Luby, Spokane Teachers Credit Union
  • Antoinette Mathews, Trailhead Credit Union
  • Kari Murillo, Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union
  • Rob Overton, Rogue Credit Union
  • Amber Quinteros, iQ Credit Union
  • Jeremy Sankwich, Verity Credit Union
  • Mariah Smith, Rogue Credit Union
  • John Suk, BECU
  • Paul Swenson, Spokane Teachers Credit Union
  • Tammy Teeter, TwinStar Credit Union
  • Blake Thurman, Rogue Credit Union
  • Troy VanRiper, First Tech Federal Credit Union
  • Greg Vermillion, Inspirus Credit Union
  • Travis Wade, Beehive Federal Credit Union
  • Amy Wellard, Pocatello Simplot Credit Union
  • Matthew Wilson, Oregon Community Credit Union

Are you a current or former WCMS student? The CUNA Management School Networking Breakfast—held at MAXX on Oct. 25, 2017—is a great opportunity to connect with other students and alumni. Remember to sign up when you register for MAXX!

Sign Up Today

Interested in becoming a WCMS student? The Northwest Credit Union Foundation is a resource for scholarships. Click here for more information.

Posted in Around the NW.