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Crash Big.Bright.Minds 2013

This year, Filene Research Institute is gathering the biggest and brightest minds from the credit union industry in Princeton, NJ. This event is invitation-only and usually exclusive to the Filene Board, Research Council, Fellows, current i3 members, and Filene benefactors. But this year big.bright.minds is getting Crashed

With great support from Filene Research Institute we have been able to offer eleven crashers the chance to be on the inside at this event. For four days in October, our Cooperative Trust members will rub shoulders with some of the most illustrious people in our industry.

Find out more about our Crashers below:

Amanda McMeans | Blake Woods | Danielle Frawley | Francesca McFadden | Heather Ristow | Ken Gardner | Maia Graham-Derham | Nilsa Gebert | Stephanie Sievers

Amanda McMeans

As Vice President of Client Management for MarketMatch, Amanda is an industry leader in marketing and brand strategy helping financial institutions grow market share. She has over 11 years experience in marketing credit unions where she led successful efforts to grow membership, loans, products per member, and lower average membership age during her tenure.

Throughout her career, Amanda has won numerous statewide and national awards for brand strategy and development, multi-channel marketing campaigns, public relations and social media including the Cutting Edge Marketing Brilliance Award, Trailblazer 40 Below, and runner-up for the Next Top Credit Union Exec competition in 2011.

She has also been a contributing writer for Credit Union Times, is active in the Cooperative Trust network, has been a featured blogger on CU Water Cooler, and is a nationally-recognized speaker on marketing and business development strategies, social media, and organizational culture.

Amanda has a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Wittenberg University, loves hosting dinner parties, and spoiling those close to her with baked goods.

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Blake Woods

Blake Woods grew up on the lakes of the aptly named Waterford, MI. The self-proclaimed “born again nerd” studied advertising and public relations at Michigan State University, graduating in 2009. An internship during his final year was the entry point into the Credit Union industry, and Woods has worn many hats during his 3+ years in the business including new media, public relations and e-commerce management. In 2012, Woods was selected to lead the Lake Trust Value Lab, a cross-functional product innovation team. Other projects include upgrading the Credit Union website, online banking and video communication platforms.

Outside the office, Woods is an avid hockey player and snowboarder. He enjoys music, technology, and exploring Northern Michigan and Canada. Woods additionally blogs about hockey and budget travel. You can follow him on twitter @blakebwoods

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Danielle Frawley

Danielle Frawley is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Fort Community Credit Union (FCCU) in Fort Atkinson, WI, where she has been since December 2009.

She started her career in credit unions as a sophomore in college at FCCU, where she held many different positions. She began at FCCU as a teller, then was promoted to the Training Coordinator and later was assigned the duties of assisting the CFO with investments and assisting the Vice President of Operations.

After graduating from UW-Whitewater, she began working at Blackhawk Community Credit Union in Janesville, Wisconsin where she was the Branch Manager of their Main office. She was soon promoted to Director of Innovation, Business and Education Development. Her proudest accomplishment within this position was the opening of two student-ran, high school credit union branches.

When the opportunity came for her to return to FCCU, she was enthusiastic to return to her “home” credit union as their Consumer Loan Officer. She held that position for two and a half years and was then promoted to her current position.

Danielle currently holds active roles on the South Central Chapter of Credit Unions Board, as the President, as a member of the Whitewater Rotary International, Board Member of the Whitewater Chamber of Commerce, and as a member on the Wisconsin Credit Union League’s Young Professionals Council and Government Affairs Council. She is also the Event Chair for the South Central Chapter of Credit Union’s Children’s Miracle Network Bowl-A-Thon, which has raised over $110,000 for the Children’s Hospitals of Wisconsin during the past ten years.

Her passion resides with credit unions and building awareness of the differences between credit unions and banks as a credit union Activist. Her friends and family will tell you that she advocates the credit union difference anytime she sees someone pull a bank debit card out of their wallet.

Danielle holds a B.B.A. degree in International Business and a minor in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She is a 2011 graduate of CUNA Management School and a 2013 Government Affairs Conference Crasher.

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Francesca McFadden

As the Marketing Specialist for Gates Chili Federal Credit Union, Francesca is responsible for the credit union’s communications, community involvement, business development and  promotional efforts. In addition, she also cross-trained as a teller, member service representative and lending officer.  Francesca loves her job because it gives her the opportunity to help credit union members improve their financial lives, whether it’s through community workshops, educational articles in newsletters or sitting down with members one-on-one.

Francesca is passionate about credit unions and the development of young professionals within the credit union industry. In 2010, she joined 30 young professionals from across NY state to form the Credit Union Association of New York’s Young Professionals Commission. Their goal was to develop a plan to educate, engage, develop and retain young credit union employees so that they’d be ready to head into leadership positions. Their Commission created the YP Network, a state-wide young professionals network for credit union employees. Francesca was elected by her peers to serve as the Communications Officer, developing the website, e-mail, newsletter and social media communications.

Francesca graduated from the State University of New York’s College at Brockport with a bachelor’s in marketing. As a college student she interned with Disney… not once, but twice. Francesca started at the front desk of the Caribbean Beach resort at Walt Disney World and then interned with their Casting Marketing team (that’s Disney-lingo for Recruitment/HR Marketing).

When not working, Francesca enjoys traveling, playing board games, camping, watching Game of Thrones, and reading adventure or travel-based biographies. She is originally from Italy and have a deep love of sunshine, making food by hand and meals with friends that last for hours. While she don’t follow sports, the World Cup is treated like a national holiday every four years in her household.

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Heather Ristow

Beginning her credit union career in 2003, Heather Ristow has become a passionate and dedicated credit union leader. She has over 10 years of credit union experience from her previous position as Teller Supervisor at Fort Community CU and as VP of Operations at St. Mary’s & Affiliates CU. She also held a position with Corporate Central CU, as Relationship Development Officer, where she worked with credit unions throughout the state of Wisconsin. Currently, as Operations Director at Heritage CU in Madison, WI, Heather manages and directs retail branch operations. She is also responsible for identifying and developing strategic credit union growth opportunities.

Heather is an active member of Credit Union Governmental Affairs, The Cooperative Trust, CUNA Operations, Sales and Service Council, Young CU Professional Development, Advocacy and Community Service. Since early 2011, she has served on the Young Professionals Network and presently sits on the Wisconsin Young Professionals Advisory Board.

In 2008, Heather earned her BBA in Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has recently completed her first year of CUNA Management School and expects to graduate in 2015.

During her free time, Heather enjoys soaking up the fickle Wisconsin weather – from skiing and sledding to cook-outs and boating!

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Ken Gardner

Ken Gardner holds over 10 years of financial industry experience in areas as diverse as lending, management, marketing and human resources. Currently he works as a Marketing and HR Intern at Greater TEXAS FCU in beautiful Austin, TX. His interests are varied and include: technology, history, politics, golf, and of course financial cooperatives. In 2012, Ken earned the Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) designation and has had multiple articles published in credit union industry magazines.

Twitter                 Linkedin


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Maia Graham-Derham

Maia has been a valuable member of the Assiniboine Credit Union team since 2007. After joining Assiniboine, Maia pioneered the Financial Services Representative role at the Community Financial Services Centre (CFSC), a successful joint effort between ACU and community partners to bring financial services to the under-banked in an underserved neighbourhood.

Through that role Maia made many connections with local not-for-profits & community development organizations, eventually taking a position at a local neighbourhood renewal corporation. In 2011 Maia accepted the role of Manager, Financial Access Program at Assiniboine Credit Union supporting ACU’s work to increase access to financial services and financial empowerment. Currently Maia is responsible for managing ACU’s involvement in asset building and banking the under-banked.

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Nilsa Gebert

Nilsa Gebert is currently the Branch Manager at FOCUS Credit Union in Wauwatosa, WI and has been involved in the credit union movement for the last 8 years.  Nilsa currently serves as the Vice-President of the United Suburban Credit Union Chapter, is part of the Young Professional Council and was recently appointed to the Wisconsin Credit Union Leagues 1 with The League Council.

Outside of her work with credit unions, Nilsa is the proud aunt to 5 nieces and nephews and a dog mom to two adorable puppies.  Nilsa has also recently discovered her love for jogging and is currently training for her first 5k this fall.

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Stephanie Sievers

Family comes first!  Stephanie will start with that because no matter what she has accomplished, and will achieve, in her life; that statement is her North.

Stephanie is blessed to have grown up a Military Brat!  She has lived on both coasts (East and West) and both climates (North and South).  She is athletic and loves to play games, be outside, camp, hike, you name it.  If it involves a competition, or physical activity, then Stephanie is your girl!  She married her high school sweetheart, and they live in a packed house which includes: their three energetic children (we are not done yet…we will be going for number four soon), four dogs, one frog, and soon they will have two ninety gallon fish tanks.  (And if you were wondering…yes, she drives a minivan….but she does look cool doing it!).

After college graduation Stephanie taught for four years before deciding that she had a different calling. Stephanie has since found out that she LOVES credit unions.  She loves what they stand for and she is proud to belong!  Presently, Stephanie is the CEO of ANECA Federal Credit Union.  She does still teach on the side and is very passionate about education.  Stephanie’s education includes: 2 Minors (English & Business), 1 Bachelor of Science, 2 Masters (Science and Business Administration), 4 CUNA Designations (CCUE, CFSP, CUCE, CCUFC) and 1 Specialization (Financial Management).  Don’t call her an overachiever!  Just call her awesome!

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