First Person: What WCMS Means To Us

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CLAREMONT, Calif. — Expanding knowledge, developing skills and enabling someone to "find her voice"-all part of the praise heaped upon Western CUNA Management School by two of its former students.

Patsy Van Ouwerkerk is the WCMS board chair, and president/CEO of $1.8 billion Travis Credit Union in Vacaville, Calif"

"I attended Western CUNA Management School 1980 to 1982. When I went the school expanded my abilities in other areas. The biggest thing for me coming from a large credit union was understanding all the elements. I was an executive assistant to the president of The Golden 1 Credit Union. As middle management it gave me a chance to learn about other areas, which you hear a lot of students talking about.

The school has a board of trustees, and I have been on the board since I graduated. The board has a number of duties including making sure we stay relevant to what is going on in the industry. The curriculum is constantly changing due to input from the board and the faculty. The students complete evaluations, which we take a serious look at to make sure all of the faculty members are hitting the mark.

I have a lot of pride in Western CUNA Management School. For me having graduated from the school the 50th anniversary means a lot. I am very proud that we have been able to do that. The trustees and faculty all have a feeling for this school and we want to give back. We look forward to the next 50 years."

Diana Dykstra is president and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, and is the former president/CEO of San Francisco Fire CU"

"I graduated in 1992, having started in 1990 while I was at The Golden 1. What we are trying to do is give students a broader perspective on the credit union movement and the business credit unions do. We teach financial management, regulations and human resources law, plus many other topics. It is a comprehensive, three-year program.

I was successful in my credit union career, but WCMS opened my eyes and helped me find my voice. I learned a lot and it made me more impactful in my credit union career.

There have been hundreds and hundreds of graduates who have gone on to become credit union CEOs. It really broadens the knowledge base. Given the complexity of credit unions today, it is possible to become myopic to the job day by day. Western CUNA Management School gives a broader perspective and helps people manage their credit union better. We are building tomorrow's leaders.

The students go to class for two weeks each July for three years. Between the second and third year, they have to complete a very comprehensive written project. For several years now I have been the grader for the second-year projects, and I learn a ton from reading them. It keeps me relevant, and it is my way to give back and make sure we have a strong group of leaders coming up all the time.

Being around for 50 years is such a great achievement. The school has changed so many peoples' lives. The network you develop with your class is amazing and stays with you for life. The success of the credit union movement is really about networking, and for many this is their first time outside the four walls of their credit union."

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