Inaugural CU Prodigy Scholarship Sends Columbine FCU’s Tina Wickes to CUNA GAC
By W.B. King
Columbine Federal Credit Union’s Vice President of Lending Tina Wickes will check off two important boxes in the coming month — attending the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) for the first time, which also marks her first visit to Washington, D.C.
“As I continue to grow in my leadership role, understanding regulations and bills that are brought before our lawmakers and legislators is really important…how it effects the [credit union] movement and how it affects our membership, regardless of political party,” Wickes told Finopotamus. “Small changes can have a huge impact on how we serve our members.”
Wickes’ GAC trek is made possible through a first-ever scholarship offered by the Salt Lake City-based CU Prodigy, a credit union service organization (CUSO), explained CEO Amber Harsin.
“We were looking at our own internal mission and what our values were and we decided we wanted to anchor really heavily on the cooperative principles. As part of that, each year we look at each principle individually to see how we can model that as a software CUSO,” Harsin told Finopotamus. In total there are eight principles, the fifth being education, training and information.
“We started thinking how we could take education to a different level that isn’t strictly related to tech,” Harsin said, adding that CU Prodigy offers a core processing and private cloud platform, featuring a modern browser-based core and an application programming interface (API) architecture that can integrate with any fintech solution.
Conceding that CUSOs aren’t necessarily “needed” in the industry if the credit union movement isn’t “healthy,” Harsin said CU Prodigy continually invests in the credit union space as this approach also supports the “long-term viability” of the CUSO and its client base. Currently, CU Prodigy has 40 credit unions in its network, including the $68.5 million Centennial, Colo.-based Columbine Federal Credit Union, which supports 7,000 members.
Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
The real-dollar value of the scholarship is upwards of $3,000 and includes conference admission and covers travel expenses. Harsin said the contest was announced last year with 11 credit union executive’s responding to what she said was a straightforward question: Why do you want to attend GAC in 2023?
Wickes, who has spent 13 years working at credit unions as a lending executive, began her post at Columbine Federal Credit Union in 2020. Her CEO, Arick Williams, attended GAC last year and raved about the experience, which inspired Wickes to answer the scholarship question.
“I’ve been a user of CU Prodigy for just over three years. While attending the CU Prodigy conference last September, Amber said they would be offering scholarships for some heavy hitting conferences with GAC being one of them,” she said. “I took the opportunity to apply and luckily was chosen.”
Harsin explained that for many smaller credit unions, resources to attend conferences are seldom available or the credit union can only afford to send one representative. To this end, she said CU Prodigy “puts its money where its mouth is.”
The 2023 CU Prodigy scholarship program also includes Credit Union Development Educators Certification with the National Credit Union Foundation and one year of Western CUNA Management School (WCMS). The CUDE scholarship opportunity opened for applications on Jan. 23, and WCMS will be open for applications later in the year.
“Credit union conferences are a great place to network and expand your knowledge on the industry as a whole. I will make connections that will help me be a better leader for my organization for years to come,” Wickes said. “It’s my first time to Washington, D.C., a city that is rich with history and I’m excited to experience that with others involved in the credit union movement.”