Western CUNA Management School Immerses Students in Credit Union Operations and Builds Strong Leaders


It’s no secret among credit union professionals – completing Western CUNA Management School is a big challenge. For three summers in a row, students attend classes and work on projects that immerse them in the world of credit union operations. 

On July 25, WCMS celebrated 99 graduates’ accomplishments during a ceremony, held at Pamona College in Claremont, California. Twenty-three of those graduates hail from the Northwest.

2019 Idaho WCMS graduating class.

Here’s a list of this year’s Northwest WCMS 2019 graduates:


Jason Royce, Idaho Central Credit Union
Samantha Scott
, Lewis Clark Credit Union 
Stephanie Whitworth
, Connections Credit Union

WCMS Oregon Graduates

2019 Oregon WCMS graduating class.

Pamela Barrett, NW Preferred Federal Credit Union 
Matthew Goodwin, Old West Federal Credit Union 
Bryan Jordan, Providence Federal Credit Union 
Tiffany Pillars, Providence Federal Credit Union
Mickey BeardRivermark Community Credit Union 
Stephanie StrimlingRivermark Community Credit Union  
Kelsey Esqueda, Rogue Credit Union 
Tyler Holbrook, Rogue Credit Union
Aaron Clark, Unitus Community Credit Union 

WCMS Washington Graduates

2019 Washington WCMS graduating class.

Andrew Whittenberg, BECU 
Rachel Graham, Inspirus Credit Union 
Eva Ngu, Inspirus Credit Union 
Wanda Norman, Kitsap Credit Union 
Samantha CarlSalal Credit Union 
Joshua Gibson, STCU 
Pamela Moore, STCU 
Carmina DrummerTwinStar Credit Union
Corinn WohlTwinStar Credit Union 
Erin Pearson, WSECU

In addition, Shirley Cate, President and CEO of Providence Federal Credit Union, received this year’s James D. Likens Alumni Recognition Award for significant achievements in the credit union field since her own WCMS graduation in 1998. 

Without my experience at WCMS, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career,” Cate said. “Not only did it give me the knowledge I needed, but also lifelong friends. To receive this award from the WCMS Alumni Association is such an honor, and with the award being named after the prestigious Dr. James D Likens, it makes it all the more special.” 

Cate has served on the Northwest Credit Union Association and the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s boards, and helped create the credit union service organization, CU Apps. She’s worked in the credit union industry for more than three decades. 

The WCMS Experience

Here’s what a few Northwest credit union professionals had to say about their WCMS experiences: 

Shirley Cate, President and CEO of Providence Federal Credit Union, was awarded the James D. Likens Alumni Recognition Award during the 2019 WCMS graduation last month.

“The program is excellent. It proved to be more challenging, both in the amount of work and the nature of the work, than I expected. The material was really well rounded, ranging from economics and financials, to speaking and writing. The networking opportunities are outstanding. I now have over 100 peers I can connect with for questions and resources. The knowledge and skills I gained increased my confidence as a credit union leader.” – Erin Pearson, WSECU, Manager, Administrative Services 

“WCMS was a life-changing experience for meFrom our two projects, three examinations, and three two-week classroom sessions, we were challenged to see things from a different perspective. Instead of thinking departmentally or in a silo, we were expected to begin seeing things from a much broader viewpoint. In our third year we were broken out into smaller groups, where we “ran” a credit union for the course of seven years by making decisions that would affect our financial projections. The sentiment that rings in the ears of all former WCMS graduates will still resonate with me throughout my life, and it can be applied in many different ways – “Start Early and Start Often.” – Stephanie Tocher, Connections Credit Union, VP of Lending. 

Prepping for my first year of WCMS, I knew that I wanted to get everything I possibly could out of this experience – and felt incredibly fortunate that I was selected to go. Upon arriving, I was nominated as firstyear class President. I was terrified at the thought of standing up in front of 130 classmates and asking them for the opportunity to not only challenge myself, but try something new (Which as we all know, is where the learning happens!). I carried that new found feeling of empowerment back home and started asking for opportunities at my credit union, local chapter, and with the NWCUA!” Tiffany PillarsProvidence Federal Credit Union, AVP of Finance 

WCMS serves credit unions in the 13 Western statesGraduates who have developed their skills and knowledge at the school hold positions of leadership at some of the nation’s leading credit unions. To learn more, visit WCMS online 

Editor’s note: Are you a current or former WCMS student? The CUNA Management School & Development Educator Networking Breakfast—held at MAXX on Oct. 17, 2019—is a great opportunity to connect with other students and alumni. Remember to sign up when you register for MAXX!  

Posted in Professional Development.