In the Spotlight: Meet Nanci Wilson from University FCU
by Shawn Marie Brummer
Communications & Media Specialist

Nanci Wilson says it is difficult for her to state exactly where she grew up, or to name her hometown. Before she was married, her family had moved 13 times. She says she quickly learned that “home” is wherever the people you love are. She does have one special connection to the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she graduated from Roosevelt High School. Her gregarious nature was already in action back then, as she was a Roosevelt ambassador for new students and tour groups. One of her first paying jobs was at Toys R Us, where she dressed as Geoffrey the Giraffe for events and Grand Openings, and further refined her people skills.

After she was married, Nanci and her husband eventually settled in the small town of Minto, North Dakota. About ten years ago, she went to her local bank looking for a short-term loan for the holidays. The family had run into some unexpected medical expenses, and she just wanted to provide a nice Christmas for their young son. The banker literally laughed at her. Then, he added not only would he not give them a loan – but that she would probably never own a home either.

That very day, Nanci closed her bank account, walked over to her the local credit union where she opened a new account and received a small holiday loan. At the credit union, Nanci says she was treated with dignity and respect, and she also received assistance getting the family finances back on track with the help of the credit union’s products. She hasn’t looked back.

About a year after opening that first account at North Star Community Credit Union, she began working there. First, as a teller, then member service lead, eventually becoming the director of training and education. She also met her first career mentor, Cindy Hegland, who was CEO at that time. Cindy encouraged her to get her CUDE (Credit Union Development Educator) certification. “She knew that CUDE would be a great course for me,” Nanci recalled. “Because of that, my purpose and passion were ignited. She may have not known it then, but she changed my life. Because of how I was treated at the credit union and the way that it made me feel, I in turn wanted to become that person for other people,” she explained.

Through the DE program that she completed in 2015, Nanci also met and became friends with Lois Kitsch, former North Dakota native and program director at the time for the National Credit Union Foundation. “Not only is she a living credit union pioneer, but she has helped thousands of people find their purpose in the movement,” Wilson expounded. “She proved to me that passion and drive can take you just as far – if not further – than a framed diploma.”

While Nanci was grateful for receiving the opportunity to learn more about the movement and to expand her wings at North Star Community Credit Union, her interests were shifting more toward outreach and marketing. When a position was offered to her at the Credit Union Executive Society (CUES), her curiosity was piqued. She worked there for a short time and gained more knowledge about the world of credit union vendors. Still, she missed the personal connections with members, and the outlet to share her personal story about the difference a credit union made in her life.

So, when a position was created at University FCU for a Marketing & Community Engagement Officer, it seemed a tailor fit. After interviewing with CEO Lacey TerWee, she knew that was where she needed to be. “Lacey gives me the gift of trust and creative freedom,” Nanci explained. “Knowing that I have the backing and full belief from my management team creates an atmosphere where I feel empowered, appreciated, and valued. That combination is a dream come true, and I am exactly where I want to be.”

In her role at University FCU on the Grand Forks campus of the University of North Dakota (UND), Nanci is responsible for all marketing materials, including posters, mailers, e-mails, and other literature. She is also in charge of the outreach and spends a lot of time talking to UND students, staff, and faculty.

“I enjoy those ‘ah-ha’ moments where you talk about the credit union to someone who hasn’t been informed of the differences between us and other financial institutions,” she explained. “Being able to tell folks there is a place for them, owned by them, that will find a way to help them, is empowering on so many levels.”

Nanci tends to leave an impression wherever she goes. That’s probably why she was invited to be part of an exclusive workshop for DE alumni in California; to be a mentor for two CUDE classes in Madison, Wisconsin; and to be the keynote speaker for a CUDE graduating class ceremony. She was selected as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine in 2017; was an emcee for the 2017 Louisiana Credit Union League Summit; and has been a guest on multiple credit union based podcasts. In addition, she is a contributor/author at CUInsight and does freelance speaking engagements for the credit union movement with her topics being “Empathy Training” and “How to Add Heart to Your Hustle.” In 2018, she was the Red River Regional Award Winner for Community Action. Let’s not forget the most recent project she was recruited for: Nanci will be the Crasher Mentor for our 2020 CUAD Summit in Sioux Falls next month!

No matter how busy she is, Nanci also finds time to volunteer, whether it be at a local food pantry or ringing the Salvation Army bell during the holiday season. Through her volunteer work at one pantry, she was disturbed to find herself helping a client who needed to choose between feeding her pet or supplying herself with feminine hygiene products. This prompted University FCU to start their “NO Embarrassment” project. In one year, the credit union has assembled and donated more than 500 feminine product bags that have been donated to local schools, domestic violence shelters, and pantries.

“I just want credit unions to remember: To be WHO we are and to stand out for WHAT we do, we must always operate under our cooperative principles,” she concluded.

In her personal life, Nanci will be celebrating her 24th anniversary to her husband, Mark, in October. They share one son, Cooper, age 14; a rescue shih tzu named Maizee Mae; and a rescue cat named Walter. When she is not working or promoting credit unions, she spends a lot of time trying to figure out her latest purchase: a Cricut. So far, she has only been able to produce a single flower – but she has some grand ideas for gifts and projects. No doubt, some of them will be related to credit unions!



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