big.bright.minds 2014: A Mind-Opening Opportunity

Posted: Wednesday, January 7th 2015 at 3:13 PM

Two FCB students were chosen by faculty nomination to attend the Filene Research Institute’s big.bright.minds 2014 conference (website HERE | post-event blog HERE) on November 10–12, 2014.

Senior finance majors Emily Tomjac and Hana Cournoyer joined credit union executives for brainstorming sessions aimed at making the credit union industry better for the people they serve. The conference is an invitation-only event. NAU-FCB Alum Mark Meyer (’90 MGT), CEO of the Filene Research Institute, extended his second invitation to the FCB to send two students, the only students in attendance.

“Mark was very into our experience. He wanted to know what we liked about it, what we were learning. Really nice getting to know him. He’s a great guy,” said Tomjac. “Mark actually introduced us in the middle of the conference. He said, ‘Hey, we have two NAU students from here. Go Lumberjacks! Give them your business cards. They’re graduating in December so they can get a job.’ He was really pushing for us,” she said.

“The most interesting thing that I found was the i3'ers*,” said Tomjac, “These groups get together to come up with ideas to solve an issue the industry’s having.”

“They [also] have a group called the CRASHers, people who work in unions who are under the age of 35, and they try to give ideas to the older people working in the credit unions, the people above 35, and see what works. It was really interesting because [the CRASHers] literally travel all over the world to get these ideas,” she said.

Tomjac hadn’t focused on the credit union industry nor heard of the conference before being chosen to attend, but she came away believing the opportunity was amazing. The event provided the students with ample opportunities for networking as well.

“It seems like such a great industry. The people were so amazing. … they were so interested in what we had to say, what people my age had to say. It was such a great experience,” said Tomjac.

“It was hands on. It was ‘What do you think about this?’ It was voting … It was probably the most exciting conference I have ever been to,” she shared.

Tomjac and Cournoyer were very appreciative of being able to attend the conference with all expenses paid. Both students gained insights into the financial and social workings of the credit union industry and forged connections from this event which could also help them reach their career goals.

* Filene's renowned i³ (Ideas, Innovation, Implementation) program sets the most captivating next generation leaders to the task of examining the consumer finance industry’s problems. Each i3'er serves a two-year term. (More information HERE.)

big.bright.minds 2013 story HERE

More about Mark Meyer

Meyer’s journey began with an FCB internship in 1989 with the Arizona State Credit Union while he was studying at FCB. Also impactful was the loss of his accounting professor, Larry Gardner, which left him with a void. He changed his major to management as a result and moved on, becoming a lawyer after graduating from NAU. “My career came from that internship,” said Meyer who has been with the Filene Research Institute for 11 years and its CEO since 2006. He described his career in the credit union industry as both challenging and rewarding.

Meyer feels it is important to have an eye on talent, including future talent, and he wanted to give back, so he started with his backyard, NAU. He plans to invite NAU students again to next year's conference. “Whether or not they go on into other fields, if they leave big.bright.minds with an understanding of credit unions that they did not have coming in, then I have achieved my goal,” Meyer said.

More about Mark Meyer: Bio HERE

More on Filene Research Institute

(Website HERE)

“Through independent research and innovation, the Filene Research Institute explores issues vital to the future of credit unions and consumer finance.”

Categories: big.bright.minds 2014 fall 2014 students alumni mark meyer filene research institute emily tomjac hana cournover