Recognizing that the financial and career choices made—and habits developed—during college have an outsized impact after graduation, parents and students are increasingly focused on financial responsibility and skills development as a critical part of higher education.
Miami University of Ohio’s First Miami Student Credit Union, however, has been focused on these important issues for twenty-five years and from a unique perspective. First Miami is not just another financial institution serving a university community. It is not just a place where students can sign up for accounts, manage their money, and maybe get an internship or part-time job.
At First Miami, one of only three completely student-run credit unions in the country, the students are the institution. First Miami is an entirely volunteer, student-run financial institution; from the Chief Executive Officer to the daily tellers.
Since its founding in 1988 by students and members of the Associated Student Government (ASG), Fist Miami has grown into a thriving institution that not only provides needed products and services to the university community but also focuses on educating its members on financial literacy and responsibility.
Students for Good Credit (SFGC), for example, provides financial education seminars to various organizations; focusing on understanding, building, and maintaining strong credit and the basics of everyday financial matters. These seminars are presented by students, for students, with the goal of guiding students into financial independence.
Nicholette Cameron, a senior majoring in business economics who serves as Vice President of External Relations, believes that First Miami is filling an important need by focusing on financial literacy and responsibility:
“We have found that many seniors graduate and land great jobs but still struggle to get apartments or buy cars because they didn’t manage their finances or build good credit. There was a gap on campus that wasn’t being filled. A personal finance oriented class was not available; even for business majors.”
Beyond financial education, First Miami’s unique structure and perspective also offers great on-the-job learning opportunities. Students can gain hands on business experience while working in an enterprise that manages over $1 million in assets.
Quincy Walker, a junior from Hamilton majoring in computer science, found that working at the credit union has changed his perspective on business. Walker, who serves as Vice President of Technology, had assumed he would take his high tech computer skills to work in the public sector but his work at First Miami changed that:
“Seeing the credit union’s operations first hand opened my eyes to the opportunities business affords. Now, I could really see myself working as VP of technology in the private sector,” said Walker.
First Miami offered Walker an opportunity that no other job or internship could: immediate high level experience. In his role as VP of Technology Walker was tasked with projects from web development to database administration and online security.
“Working at another company I would have to start at the bottom and work my way up over the course of years. At First Miami I was able to jump in immediately and work to build a team while creating policies and procedures that will continue long after I am gone,” said Walker. “It was an amazing opportunity for a freshman just out of high school. “
Working as part of team that is actually running a business is very different from classroom knowledge.
“It is one thing to learn something in class,” said Cameron. “It is very different to do that work as part of a real business; it changes the way you understand your responsibilities and the very real impact of not doing the necessary work.”
This type of unmatched experience has resulted in a 100% job placement rate for graduating interns, many of whom now work for Fortune 500 companies.
For its customers First Miami is also an ideal choice. It is conveniently located in the center of campus, one of only two financial institutions on the Oxford campus, and since it is student-run it is easy to find staff members with the experience and knowledge students are looking for.
Dan Krancevic, Chief Operating Officer and a senior business economics major, believes First Miami’s unique structure makes a difference.
“The fact that we are students and our market is students gives us an advantage,” he noted. “Our customers are our peers; we see them in class and around campus so they are comfortable interacting with us. And in providing services, and especially in our marketing, we are able to tap into what students really want and need.”
Krancevic also emphasized the combination of real world experience and skills development that is so critical for success:
“Having leadership experience at the credit union stands out on my resume; it grabs the attention of recruiters. But developing critical thinking and problem solving skills in the course of helping operate an actual business is what stands out the most.”
First Miami Student Credit Union offers a unique educational opportunity even as it provides a valuable service to the community. In doing so it offers students the type of skills and experience our economy requires while preparing them for life after college.