There are plenty of quotes by well-known leaders regarding their commitment to lifelong learning. According to Henry Ford, it keeps you young. Einstein asserted that intellectual growth should cease only at death. From Thomas Jefferson to Julia Child, there are many who have attributed the success of their careers to ongoing education.
There are tremendous educational opportunities throughout the movement. Many of those opportunities can be found here in New Jersey, through the League’s EDGE and DNA programs. We’d certainly love to see max participation at our educational offerings, but acknowledge that the day-to-day responsibilities of credit union operations are significant. And, for board members, your time is also at a premium.
As someone who believes strongly in ongoing education, however, I still marvel that more people don’t participate in the very reasonably priced and sometimes even FREE educational and networking events that are offered. To be honest, some of your peers have told me they feel the same.
It’s also notable in other ways. Earlier this week I earned the designation of Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) through the National Credit Union Foundation’s (NCUF) DE training. In doing so, I became the third person from the state of New Jersey to earn the designation, joining Jim Miller, President/CEO, Liberty Savings FCU, and Pete Manfredo, a credit union (and NJCUL) veteran, currently serving as a Director at NJ Gateway CU.
There are over 1,000 DE’s. My quick calculations when reviewing a list of those with the designation shows that four out of every five states have more DE’s than N.J. I’ve noticed similar results when looking at other participant lists from national programs and contests as well, and I wonder why?
I believe there is much to gain from both in-state and national events. There is value in credit union-focused as well as out-of-industry education. Operational knowledge is imperative, but training in soft skills and having a firm understanding of historical context and the driving organizational and industry principles can provide sometimes forgotten context.
This is where the NCUF’s DE training comes in. While there is certainly meat to the program, brought through case studies and projects related to real-world issues facing the credit unions, there is also a robust focus on the philosophy and guiding co-operative principals of the movement. While many of the historical elements of the training were not new to me, the in-depth discussion of how the events of the past are applicable and relevant to current events was stimulating.
Digging into the stories of Edward Filene, Roy Bergengren and Louise Herring, along with more recent first-person accounts of significant events from Larry Blanchard, WOCCU’s David Richardson, and program director Lois Kitch, provided stirring conversation amongst the group comprised of young professionals and industry vets alike. Hearing of how many of these stories relate to the emerging cooperative financial services movement in South Africa from Nomadelo Sauli, a woman leading the charge there, and who happened to be in my working group for the 6-day program, was extremely insightful and motivational.
Following this experience, I am firmly entrenched in the notion that continuing, life-long education is not only individually valuable, but it can also be inspirational. I perceive the opportunities we offer here at NJCUL to be reasonably convenient and, from what I have seen in the event surveys, strong from a content side. In addition, participation in programs such as the DE training can bring new perspectives to drive innovation or perhaps just rejuvenate a weary soul.
I encourage you to provide us with your thoughts on how NJCUL can compel you to take advantage of our educational offerings to a greater extent than today. And I also hope that we can raise our representation outside the state, for it is through those new experiences that we can bring new ideas and collaborative concepts from not only throughout the country, but the world. In the end, individuals will grow and the credit union movement in New Jersey will benefit.