CUNA’s summer intern Maria Pinacho will work in three departments during her seven-week stint, so she’s sure to meet plenty of people throughout the organization.
Those contacts can last a lifetime and shape your career path. Just ask CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle and Chief Operating Officer/Chief of Staff Rich Meade.
As a freshman at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in the late 1970s, Nussle accompanied one of his professors to a town meeting with U.S. Rep. Tom Tauke (R-Iowa) after Nussle expressed an interest in politics.
To Nussle’s good fortune, no one else showed up for the town meeting. So the young college student gained a one-on-one audience with Tauke, who soon took him on as an intern.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nussle went on to a successful career in politics, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007. He served as chairman of the House Budget Committee, a key panel that oversees the federal budget process, including review of all bills and resolutions on the budget.
In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Nussle as the 36th director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the largest office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. As OMB director, Nussle was a member of President Bush's Cabinet.
Nussle says he “can trace all of my footsteps and career to that night in Decorah, Iowa. I can remember that conversation like I was sitting in the room today.”
Tauke even served as a reference when Nussle applied for the top job at CUNA.
About 10 years later, an internship with Tauke played a similar defining role in Meade’s career. Meade heard Tauke give a speech and was so impressed he volunteered his services as an intern for the Iowa congressman.
A position soon opened on staff, and Meade was hired to a paid position. He then worked on Tauke’s next campaign in Iowa.
During that time, Meade met Nussle, who was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. On Tauke’s recommendation, Nussle hired Meade as a junior staffer. For most of his career, Meade has served as Nussle’s chief of staff.
Like Nussle, Meade says he considers Tauke a mentor and seeks his counsel to this day. “You establish relationships during those first experiences that, honest to God, last a lifetime,” Meade says. “I’m still in touch with a lot of people I met during that first internship. You create some lifetime bonds and friendships as well, and that’s pretty special.”
Meade and Nussle hope Pinacho forms similar relationships at CUNA this summer. Pinacho, who will be a senior at Madison (Wis.) West High School, comes to CUNA through Centro Hispano of Dane County’s Escalera program.
The program promotes economic mobility through academic success, career awareness, and college preparation. Students can take part in summer internship programs if they complete school program requirements.
“The program helps a lot of student of modest means,” says Scott Lopez, CUNA human resources director. “In many cases these students will be the first members of their family to pursue post-secondary education.”
Pinacho will assist in CUNA’s marketing, finance and accounting, and conferences and meetings departments. During her two-week stint in each area, she will gain a broad overview of how CUNA departments work with both internal and external partners.
Upon completion of the internship, Pinacho will be eligible for a $500 post-secondary education scholarship sponsored by CUNA.
Lopez says participating in the Escalera program helps CUNA maintain a connection to the community it may not otherwise be exposed to.
“We see it has an opportunity to provide people with career opportunities they may not have come by naturally,” Lopez says.