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  • Writer's pictureW.B. King

Prodigy Awards Second Annual GAC Scholarship to Great River Federal CU’s COO Shelly Janorschke-Nagel

Updated: Jan 31

By W.B. King

While leafing through a Prodigy newsletter last year, Shelly Janorschke-Nagel, chief operations officer at Great River Federal Credit Union, learned that the credit union service organization (CUSO) would be awarding an all-expenses paid trip to the 2024 America’s Credit Unions (formerly CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).

“I saw the scholarship as a great opportunity to attend GAC as a first-time participant to represent Great River Federal and its members,” Janorschke-Nagel told Finopotamus.

Shelly Janorschke-Nagel

This is the second year that the Salt Lake City, Utah-based CU Prodigy is offering the scholarship, noted CEO Amber Harsin. The first scholarship was awarded to Columbine Federal Credit Union’s Vice President of Lending Tina Wickes who Harsin said will also be returning to GAC on her own steam this year.

“Those of us that attend GAC regularly know it’s a time of invigoration, but to have a first timer attendee brings an entirely new level of commitment and excitement for the credit union movement,” Harsin told Finopotamus. “We learned we wanted to prioritize the applicants that have not had that opportunity as a way for us to contribute to the continued fanatical love credit union people have for the movement.”

Janorschke-Nagel explained that the application process was straightforward and required a thoughtful answer to the following question: What makes you a qualified candidate for this conference and how would you benefit from attending? When she was informed on January 9, 2024 that she won, she said being “excited” was an understatement.

“A few years ago, our CEO [Brant Hicks] mentioned that he thought I would find a great deal of value in attending GAC,” she offered. “The timing of the event didn’t align with my availability in the past, but this year it was at the top of my wish list. Learning of the scholarship opportunity happened to be awesome timing.”

The $359 million St. Cloud, Minn. credit union serves more than 20,688 members and supports 90 employees and nine branch locations.

“Because GAC brings thousands of credit union professionals together, I see this as an incredible opportunity to learn from one another, share experiences and uncover benefits that can provide value to the members of Great River Federal,” she said. “The added bonus of GAC is it also provides credit unions an opportunity to advocate and educate elected officials on the impact laws and regulations can have on the lives of our members.”


Educate and Inspire          


Harsin, who noted that seven “amazing” executives submitted applications, said the mission of the scholarship program is to educate and inspire credit union professionals from all credit union sizes.

“The movement is only as strong as those of us participating in it,” said Harsin, who noted that the CUSO supports 60 credit unions. “Having credit unions that would not be able to attend otherwise immerse themselves in the network power and legislative experience will only make each link in the credit union chain stronger.”

When Finopotamus asked Harsin what industry topics she is most interested to explore this year at GAC, she responded: “Anything around the bill that will give NCUA regulatory power. I also think the conversation around overdraft fees will have a big impact.”

Amber Harsin

Prodigy is among a number of CUSOs that Great River Federal CU works with, noted Janorschke-Nagel. She added that these organizations provide support from core processing and specialized lending to payment processing.

“Like credit unions, CUSOs are built on the principal of ‘people helping people’ and they allow us to offer a variety of innovative products and services while also reducing expensive operational costs,” she said.

In Harsin’s view, collaboration is a CUSO superpower. “By leveraging CUSOs to gain efficiency and economies of scale, credit unions can be even better financial stewards of their community’s financial health.”

The Credit Union Difference

As Janorschke-Nagel prepares for her first trip to GAC, she fondly reflected on her career in the credit unions space.

“The credit union movement and philosophy has played an instrumental role in why I’ve remained in this industry for nearly two decades,” she offered, noting that she began her tenure with the credit union in 2004 as a consumer loan officer.

“I want to participate in the GAC because it’s important that lawmakers hear about the difference credit unions make every day as we learn the stories of our members, and through those stories I hope to advocate, educate and support initiatives that improve our members’ financial wellbeing,” she said.



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