Nicole Brusewitz
Nicole Brusewitz

The Experimenter

'I'm willing to stick with an experimental approach to see if it works.'

February 1, 2016

WHEN YOU delve into the past lives of credit union rock stars, you can run into some intriguing details: Before she arrived at the Mountain West Credit Union Association eight years ago, Nicole Brusewitz had been a corporate event planner and a college lecturer in holistic health at JFK University in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I had incredible mentors in both fields who taught me how to do things I never thought I could do,” she says.

The success of that mentoring led the association to recognize her twin skills and name her vice president of events and education.

That decision has paid off with some impressive statistics: 89% of the association’s member credit unions respond to and participate in educational events that Nicole plans—from seminars and conferences to webinars.

In all, she plans more than 200 programs annually.

“I came into the industry not knowing much about credit unions, but was attracted by the industry’s cooperative spirit—something that’s changing people’s lives globally,” Brusewitz says. “You want what you discuss and impart at a conference to go much deeper than teaching someone how to open an individual retirement account.”

In dealings with the association’s employees and members, her approach to education is simple: “We take credit unions’ cooperative principles and align our work to them, both behind the scenes and in front of mind.”

She understands that people respond to information differently. “I don’t have any definitive style of presentation because of that diversity. But I’m willing to stick with an experimental approach to see if it works.”

One group she addressed was used to having an expert stand on the dais and narrate a slide show while they took notes. “At one point I asked them to participate in a roundtable where the ‘wisdom of the room’ could emerge as they discussed problems, solutions, worries, and concerns. They didn’t like it—they weren’t used to it.”

When Brusewitz set up the same roundtable format for the group when it reassembled the following year, there had been a significant change in attitude. “The group was much more comfortable with it because they realized how much good information and insights they got from it the year before,” she says.

Her interests extend beyond the Mountain West Credit Union Association. For the past two years Brusewitz has been working as the Colorado leader for the Global Women’s Leadership Network, a group dedicated to empowering women worldwide to learn and apply leadership skills.

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