Southeast CUNA Management School Alumni Q&A: Kim Conard ’19

Kim Conard has dedicated 27 years to her career at Marine Federal Credit Union in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Currently, she is the vice president of retail operations and is a certified credit union financial counselor (CCUFC). Conard graduated from SRCUS in 2019 and continues to implement her learnings to make improvements at her credit union.

2019 SRCUS Alumna: Kim Conard, VP of Retail Operations, Marine FCU

Q. Why did you choose to attend Southeast CUNA Management School (aka SRCUS)?

Marine Federal Credit Union typically sends one or two students each year. I wanted the overall experience I learned from previous SRCUS alumni: the great networking, team building, and the unique opportunity to learn and grow in your position.

Q. What did you think of the experience after three years?

Our class really connected during our time in the program. I went to the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference this year in DC and connected with five of my classmates at the event. Several of us have developed a leadership committee where we meet every other month to discuss what’s going on in the industry, our credit unions, and most importantly, to ask what assistance or guidance people need. We touch base with each other to learn and grow even further in our positions. Five of us, including our spouses, even go on a cruise together every other year!

Q. What were your favorite courses?

Tim Gardner’s course on ratios allowed me to grow professionally and I enjoyed this course. After gaining knowledge in these areas, I developed insight and brought back questions to ask during senior leadership meetings at the credit union, which led to further conversation and discussions.

Q. What did you enjoy about the extracurricular activities?

The outdoor team-building activities help us all learn a lot about our fellow students. During many of these activities, you build trust and foster teamwork to meet the challenges. I knew everyone had my back, and nothing was going to happen to me; you learn to trust people. I never thought I would try ziplining, but I did and even tried it again later during a trip to Costa Rica, which I might never have done!

From morning to night, it is nonstop! But because of the environment, I was always excited for what the next day would bring so it wasn’t overwhelming. You have the courses during the day and there are opportunities to go out in the evenings, enjoy the hospitality suite, have a drink or play games with fellow students – it was so much fun. I would encourage students to not just go back to their room to catch up on work, as much as possible. Getting out with everyone helps you build connections and get to know your classmates on a different level.

Q. What was the campus environment like?

The environment at UGA has a college feel that is very welcoming.I loved the campus and the staff; everyone was so friendly and accommodating and I never had any issues. You are on campus for a short time but the connections you make are meaningful and the networking was so impactful.  It was a wonderful experience; I wish I could bottle it up and bring it back to my credit union!

Q. How did SRCUS help you prepare for your career?

I gained a broader understanding of the financial industry as a whole and having this understanding allows me to ask my leadership team better questions. Seeing how other credit unions operate and meet challenges, particularly those smaller than us, helped me see the bigger picture which gave a different perspective and appreciation of what we all do. In going back to the ratios portion of the curriculum, there was an opportunity there for my credit union to share more with one another in this area: to explain what they should look like, and what they mean. There may have been an assumption that people knew more about this. It’s important to learn, and then when you teach, you tend to learn even more.

Q. What advice do you have for others considering this school?

While attending the SE CUNA Management School is a commitment, you can’t put a dollar amount on the knowledge you will bring back to your credit union. Also, don’t let the number of students overwhelm you; someone is always going to connect with you in the credit union world. Once you get down there, you see the smiling faces and feel welcome. Have fun! Learn something! Most importantly, try to connect with someone unlike you – someone in a different position with different views and ideas. In my opinion, you’ll learn much more than if you always connect with like-minded individuals.

Southeastern Regional Credit Union Schools (SRCUS) is currently accepting students for enrollment in its 2023 Southeast CUNA Management School, set for June 18-23 in Athens, GA. Learn more or enroll at srcus.org/management-school. For financial assistance, contact your League representative on the Advisory Committee for details on available scholarships.