This is a continuation of the blog posted on August 2nd detailing my experiences as a first year student at Western CUNA Management School.

And passion has a powerful effect on those around it. Tina’s passion had made a difference at Verity. Her experience definitely influenced the decision to send three more people the following year. Paul, Vivian, and Allan all left that year and returned with something that I had seen before…excitement. They were excited about credit unions, Verity, and the difference that an individual could make. With Tina’s encouragement and various conversations with Paul, Vivian, and Allan I decided that this was an avenue I wanted to pursue.

Now here is the great thing about working at a credit union and specifically Verity. In order to attend a conference like this it takes time and money (obviously). Enter the Washington Credit Union League. They offer scholarships for individuals interested in attending this school along with other educational events. In order to be considered for this scholarship you must submit an essay detailing what you hope to gain by attending. This process really reaffirmed to me what a great industry this is to work in. The fact that a resource like the Washington Credit Union League exists to support credit unions and their employees grow is truly unique. It also shows how committed Verity is to our vision statement of: Verity will be one of the 10 best places to work. People will seek to work at Verity and staff will be sought after by other companies. If you are motivated to grow Verity will support you in your efforts, as this whole experience demonstrates.

With the scholarship money and support from my credit union I signed up for the school. The easy part was done. You see I had now built up this extraordinary image of what this school would be like, now it had to live up to it. That part was out of my hands.

It was a Sunday in the middle of July when I walked through the doors at Oldenborg Hall at Pomona College in California. All I knew was this campus was going to be my home for the next two weeks. I chuckled to myself as I thought about sleeping in a dorm room again. As I pushed through the door to check in something entirely unexpected happened. I was greeted by cheering, loud enthusiastic cheering, from various second and third year students. They weren’t cheering because I am such a great guy (although I like to tell myself that was the reason); they were cheering because they were excited. They were excited, scratch that, passionate about what the school had given to them and that I was now going to be able to experience it. I didn’t know how to react. Should I turn and run? Should I thank everyone? I ended up just smiling and walked through. There was passion everywhere and it was already starting to catch on with us first year students.

Later in the day we had our “Freshman Orientation” with Dr. Likens. He is the person who runs the school. But as I came to realize he didn’t just run the school, this was his life’s work…his passion. He was dedicated to the credit union movement and used the school to ensure that our industry could develop the talent to lead credit unions into the future.

He talked to us that first day about head and heart. You see this is the essence of the credit union movement. We must use our heads to make appropriate decisions on how to run our credit unions. This is vital. However in serving our members we must also use our hearts. We have the responsibility to look for opportunities in which we can positively impact the lives of both our members and the communities we serve. It can be summed up that we must make smart decisions to run a sound credit union but we must consider who we serve when we make these decisions.

Over the next two weeks I was given the opportunity to attend classes taught by both college professors and prominent credit union officials. These classes ranged from accounting to business law. I’m not going to go in depth about these classes but I will say I took something away from all of them. If you would like more information please e-mail me at

What I do want to talk about are the people I met during my two weeks there. Have you ever had an experience that you just can’t describe in a way that did it justice? That is how I feel about my time at the school. The Sunday that I arrived to the cheering I was part of a class that consisted of exactly 124 strangers. In only two weeks these people transformed from strangers into my classmates. Admittedly I got to know some better then others but at one point I believe I held a conversation with everyone. This is what I learned; there are remarkable people in this industry. I learned so much from these people that I would have to start another blog longer then this one to get it all down (and I’ll spare you that). I’ll just say this, that by simply meeting and talking to these people I grew. I grew in both my ability to do my job and also personally. It still amazes me that I was only there for two weeks.

Now I am back at my credit union but the school is still helping me grow. Before I attend next year I get to complete a project in which I analyze pretty much every aspect of my credit union. This is a lot of work (goodbye lazy Sundays) but also a great opportunity to be able to have a working knowledge of how my credit union runs. I can truly say that passion has caught on with me and that it is an amazing thing.

Justin Martin

Justin started his long career at Verity as a summer intern. After leaving to pursue a degree in human resource management at Western Washington University, he returned to what he describes as “one of the strongest environments I have seen in terms of focus on their employees.” During his time here, Verity has been recognized with multiple awards ranging from employee development initiatives to overall work environment. Justin holds an MBA from Seattle University along with being an honors graduate from Western CUNA Management School and a certified Credit Union Development Educator.

One Response

  1. OtherCreditUnionGuy says:

    How sad! That previous comment was the first I’ve seen on this blog, and it was an ad!

    Well, I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while. I work for another credit union, and I have to say, your blog is the best CU blog I’ve seen.

    I too went to CUNA school. Graduated in 2000 (Chi class). I have to say I was a bit less enamored of it than you are…Dr. Likens can be someone you either click with or don’t. But, it was fun, and the projects are the hardest (and best) part. Start early!

    Keep blogging!

Leave a Reply