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The goal of the CUaware Council is to informally introduce all levels of credit union employees (and industry folks) to the CU Movement so we can all learn, share and grow. Here is where we will share personal insights on subjects related to the credit union movement, career development, industry expertise, CUaware events, and more. Subscribe today to be notified each time we post. Happy Reading!


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Top tags: CUaware  Protégé  career development  Mentorship  Podcast  Coastal Credit Union  learn  networking  Protégé and Beyond  volunteerism  Carolinas Credit Union Foundation  CUaware Protégé Mentor program  SC Federal CU  advocacy  Credit Union Development Educators  CUDE  Greenville FCU  Heritage Trust FCU  Local Government FCU  Piedmont Chapter  SC State Credit Union  SC Telco FCUCoastal Credit Union  SECU  Upstate Chapter  young professionals 

Latest CUaware Podcast episode interviews CUNA’s Kristin Ryan on career development

Posted By CUaware, Thursday, April 18, 2019

In the latest episode of the CUaware Podcast, Coastal CU’s Phil Kadzielawski sits down virtually with CUNA’s Kristin Ryan to talk about professional development (especially for young professionals), and how the training and conferences CUNA organizes can facilitate growth.

CUNA's Kristin Ryan
Kristin Ryan
Director of Learning Events, CUNA

Kristin is the director of learning events for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Her responsibilities include designing and developing educational leadership programs for CUNA as well as the strategic operation of the Creating Member Loyalty™ sales culture development system. She also leads the CUNA Young Professionals Committee who has developed offerings for young professionals in the credit union industry. Specifically, Kristin and the team created the National Young Professionals Conference as well as the Emerging Leader Award.

In the interview, Kristin shares tips on how young professionals in the credit union movement can advocate for their personal and career development, especially when budgeting for education is limited.

“You must always stay hungry for education and it is out there,” Kristin exclaims. “Some suggestions I would say are online sessions like [CUNA’s] Emerging Leaders Youth School. Another opportunity is to look in your area—check local. Does your league offer training? Leagues usually have very affordable options. Also check for scholarships.”

Listen to the episode today to hear more of Kristin’s insight on how to grow in the credit union movement, set goals for yourself, and be a greater impact at your own credit union and community.

The CUaware Podcast is available on or on iTunes. Lastly, if you have a podcast topic or suggestion, please contact Phil or Jeff Hardin using the email links on the podcast page.

Tags:  career development  Coastal Credit Union  CUaware  Podcast  young professionals 

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Protégé & Beyond: Will Crosswell finds his CU road map through Protégé Competition

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Thursday, November 29, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2018

In 2012, Will Crosswell heard about a newly-announced competition taking place on the state level through CEO Starla Shelton, who encouraged Crosswell to get involved and enter. New to Palmetto First FCU, the credit union movement and to business development, Crosswell declined--or rather deferred--the opportunity until 2013 so he could focus on his new job.

In the following year, Crosswell thought the timing right to enter the Palmetto Protégé and he would go on to win both the Pee Dee Chapter and the Finals Competition in 2013. Crosswell reflected on his journey in the latest installment of the Protégé & Beyond blog series with Phil Kadzielawski and Sara Portis.

Though he remembers the finals competition being somewhat of a blur at the time, he distinctly remembers "calling an audible" as he approached the podium to make his presentation. "I said, yeah, I'm not going to read this," Crosswell recalled. "I'm just going to go by memory because I had done it so often at that point I think even my wife could recite it back to me."

Having secured the Protégé title, Crosswell shared that for him, the journey was just beginning. He and Dr. Troy Hall (SC Federal) entered into a mentoring relationship in the year that followed. This mentoring relationship was the genesis of the CUaware Protégé Mentor program, which has gone on to become a key professional development opportunity for credit union young professionals and managers across the Carolinas. 

Looking back on that experience, Crosswell notes that the impulse to create the mentor program came from a recognition that there was a wider credit union community that young professionals could benefit from networking into, whether or not they won the competition. "There's some great leaders that were part of the competition that didn't win," he shared. "So it's to still try to find some ways to keep these leaders ... connected to C-level type mentors."

Crosswell said that being mentored by Hall opened some doors and his eyes to what credit unions could offer. "I didn't have that road map before. That's that sweet spot for each of us where our jobs transform into careers." Having recently joined the credit union movement from the political world, discovering this road map was foundational to his future success.  

That road map led Crosswell from Florence up Interstate 95 to Philadelphia, PA where he serves as VP of sales and service for the $650-million Ardent CU. Although time and his credit union journey have transported him away from the Carolinas, he says he still keeps his Palmetto Protégé trophy in his office and it is a proud part of his career story.

Crosswell's advice to current CUaware Protégé Finals Competition participants is to "have a blast" and be yourself. He also points out that by competing, you're no longer a 'future leader'. "If you're stepping forward now, you're a leader," he concludes.


Special Thanks to our Featured Protégé!

Will Crosswell is the vice president of service and sales for Ardent Credit Union in Philadelphia, PA. A graduate of Clemson University, he got his start in the credit union industry working in business development at Palmetto First FCU in 2011.

In 2013, Will earned the CUaware Protégé title and later went on to pilot the CUaware Mentor Program.

Tags:  career development  CUaware  CUaware Protégé Mentor program  Mentorship  Podcast  Protégé  Protégé and Beyond 

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Corey Pace shines in the Protégé and Beyond spotlight

Posted By CUaware, Thursday, October 11, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2018

In 2014, Corey Pace was taking a step back. The career development team lead in the learning center at South Carolina Federal CU had a young family and had gone to part time status in order to balance her home-work life.

Having heard about the CUaware Protégé Competition the past couple of years, she recalled thinking it would be fun but not a good fit given the stage of life she was in. That's when she got a helpful nudge from Nicole Miller, her supervisor. "I think you would be great at it," Pace remembers Miller telling her.

Armed with this encouragement and a willingness to accept a career opportunity despite limited time, Pace entered the competition and went on to win the Lowcountry Chapter Competition. She would go on to place second runner-up in the 2014 CUaware Protégé Finals Competition.

Pace shared her journey with CUaware Podcast hosts Phil Kadzielawski and Sara Portis in the latest installment of the Protégé and Beyond series. The series shares the experiences of past CUaware Protégé Competition finalists in order to encourage participation in the program and offer insights on how to successfully navigate the competition process.

Looking back on that decision to compete, Pace is glad she stretched herself. "If it scares you a little bit, it's probably worth doing," Pace offered. "It was tough with three little kids and everything to decide to take this on, but I am so that glad I did."

In exchange for the time and energy devoted to the chapter and finals events, Pace notes that the payoff came in the credit union world that opened up for her. She engaged with the CUaware Protégé Mentor program, first as a mentee and in 2018 as a mentor.

As the 2014 second runner-up, Pace had the opportunity to attend the Principles and Philosophy Conference on scholarship. She also got involved with the Lowcountry Chapter and would eventually be elected to its board.

Pace notes that the competition widened her perspective and appreciation for the credit union movement and helped her to grow personally and professionally. "It stretched me, it pushed me and it really opened up some doors that might not have been there if I had not taken the leap," Pace says.

While encouraging young professionals to make a similar leap by embracing the opportunities available to them, it's likewise important for leaders to take responsibility in the process. "As leaders in the movement, we have to start to open up a conversation," Pace shared. She believes that by offering a helpful mentoring role in the lives of young professionals, they can receive helpful feedback that will encourage their participation in growth and career development opportunities like the CUaware Protégé Competition.


Special Thanks to our Featured Protégé!

Corey Pace is the career development team lead for South Carolina Federal Credit Union. With over ten years of experience in talent acquisition and career development, Corey specializes in connecting employees to the resources they need to make their career aspirations a reality, and developing talent into dynamic leaders of the credit union industry.

Corey oversees employee career coaching and development, South Carolina Federal's High Potential Employee and Successor programs, and is certified in facilitation for the Integrity Coaching program. She believes happy, fulfilled, employees who are using their talents are better able to exceed their member's expectations.

Corey is a past participant of the CUaware Protégé competition, the CUaware Mentor program as both a protégé and a mentor, and is serving as vice president of the Lowcountry Chapter of Credit Unions.

Tags:  career development  CUaware  Mentorship  Podcast  Protégé  Protégé and Beyond  SC Federal CU 

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Protégé and Beyond podcast catches up with Koy Stone

Posted By Jeff Hardin, Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Recently, the CUaware Council debuted its new blog series called "Protégé & Beyond." The series features interviews with former CUaware Protégé Competition finalists, giving them a platform to share what they learned during and after the program.

In the latest podcast installment, hosts Sara Portis and Phil Kadzielawski of Coastal CU spent some time speaking with Koy Stone (SC Telco FCU). Stone, who today serves as the risk and facilities manager at SC Telco, participated in the program in 2015.

Having previously worked for a bank, Stone says he viewed the Protégé Competition as a learning experience. "I wanted to become more aware of our history and philosophy. I knew there was a difference there, but I wanted to learn more," Stone said.

In the years since the competition, Stone notes that the networking and professional development opportunities he's participated in have been most valuable. These include chapter events and League programs such as the CUaware Protégé Mentor program

At the time Stone applied for the Mentor program, he was a branch manager at SC Telco. In his application, he expressed interest in learning about project management and was paired with a project manager at Coastal CU. "I was able to take a lot away from that," he said of the experience. He added that participating in the Mentor program lead to his current role at the SC Telco, where he uses project management principles regularly. "Not only did it show my senior management that I had the capability of doing it, but it also showed that I had an interest," he said.

In reflecting on the lessons he learned, Stone offered several pieces of advice for contestants in this year's competition. "Everybody wins," he shared, even if you do not win or even make it to the finals. "You've had the experience where you could put together thoughts and a well-prepared paper and present them in front of your peers. No one can take that away from you." 

Stone concluded with the idea that the competition is a safe space to challenge yourself and grow. "It's an amazing opportunity. If I could do it again, I would." 

Special Thanks to our Featured Protégé!

Koy Stone is the Risk and Facilities Manager for SC Telco FCU in Greenville, SC. He has worked in the financial services industry for over 12 years, and he finished as the first runner-up in the 2015 CUaware Protégé competition. After the contest, Koy chose to attend the Southeastern CUNA Management School where he graduated in June of 2018. While attending this school, Koy competed on the debate team and he won awards for the ‘Best 2nd Year Project’ and the ‘Best 3rd Year White Paper’. Koy has been married to his wife, Amy, for 10 years and they have two children, Julianne and Nolan.

Tags:  career development  Mentorship  Podcast  Protégé  Protégé and Beyond  SC Telco FCUCoastal Credit Union 

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CUaware premieres new ‘Protégé & Beyond’ blog series ft. past competition finalists

Posted By CUaware, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In coordination with the kickoff for the 2019 CUaware Protege Competition season, the CUaware Council is excited to premiere its new blog series called "Protégé & Beyond." The series features interviews with former competition finalists, giving them a platform to share what they learned during and after the program.

"It's part 'where are they now' and part 'pay it forward,' said Coastal Credit Union's Sara Portis, the brainchild of the interview series. "We are pleased so many former finalists have taken to this idea and look forward to hearing what each of them have to share on their experience and where life has taken them post-protégé."

Dizzy Felkel and SPC CU staff from 2012
Dizzy Felkel (center), who worked at SPC Credit Union at the time, competed in the first year of the Protégé Competition in 2012 to become the first-place winner. Since then, he's returned from time to time to share his insight with professionals in the credit union movement through various League and chapter events.

The interview series will be posted monthly throughout the 2019 competition cycle. The first episode premiered this week on the CUaware Podcast and features the "OG" Dizzy Felkel, who won the inaugural protégé competition in 2012.

In the interview, led by Coastal Credit Union's Sara Portis and Phil Kadzielawski, Dizzy touched on a variety of subjects including what it was like being among the first to compete in the program, how to prepare to compete, and the importance of taking advantage of this platform and unique opportunity.

"I owe a whole lot to that competition," said Felkel. "The people at the manager [from SPC Credit Union] at the time. A lot of people invested in me and believed in me and it opened up a lot of doors for me, and it's led to a lot of cool things in life. That's why I dwell so much on 'make the most of it' because I'm living proof that this can change a life."


Special Thanks to our Featured Protégé!

Dizzy Felkel has a passion for serving the credit union industry, which has offered him incredible opportunities over the years. He works at Jack Henry & Associates under the Symitar division, where he focuses on small and mid-sized credit unions. He also offers training and public speaking services under his personal brand.

Dizzy holds the honor of winning the inaugural CUaware Protégé Competition in 2012. Educationally speaking, he holds an MBA from North Greenville University and is a graduate of the Southeast CUNA Management School. Dizzy resides near Charlotte with his wife and daughter.

Tags:  career development  Coastal Credit Union  CUaware  learn  networking  Podcast  Protégé  Protégé and Beyond 

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