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Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

When WBA’s charitable arm, the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF), was founded in 2015, education remained a top priority to aid the public in increasing their financial literacy and responsibility.

As part of this, the Foundation is proud to offer well-known programs such as Reading Raises Interest Kits that assist bankers in coordinating curriculum used during Teach Children to Save Day in April and scholarships awarded to students throughout the state for their demonstration of excellent financial capabilities. Involvement in these programs brings the Foundation one step closer to ensuring the financial knowledge and responsibility of every youth in our state.

Now through November 15, the Foundation will be accepting applications for the third annual Agricultural Banking Scholarship!

Students who will be enrolled in an accredited Wisconsin college, university, or technical college during the Spring of 2023 and are pursuing a career related to agricultural banking are encouraged to apply.

With agriculture serving as one of Wisconsin’s largest economic drivers, it is critical that we invest now in the students that are interested in driving this critical sector of our state.

The Foundation is also excited to announce this year’s Agricultural Banking Scholarship award has been increased to $1,500 each for the two qualified winners in order to help combat rising tuition costs, assist individuals in reaching their goals, and promote financial literacy in every consumer.

I encourage you to share this exciting opportunity widely within your networks — current and past ag interns, parents of college-aged children, and educators at the many ag programs throughout the state. By aiding us in spreading the word to qualified students, you play a significant part in assisting the Foundation to serve its mission as well as provide new opportunities for your community!

Please visit wisbankfoundation.org/scholarships to learn more or contact WBF’s Foundation Coordinator Hannah Flanders with any questions.

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

As our Association continues its efforts to support bankers of historically underrepresented backgrounds, finding new ways to invest in the personal and professional development of every one of our employees is top of mind.

WBA’s employee resource group (ERG), which launched in June, continues to provide a safe space for our colleagues of color and individuals of underrepresented backgrounds to engage in employee-led conversations once a month related to their identity or feelings, ideas, and developments in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space.

The next meeting will be held Thursday, September 22 at 10:00 a.m. The conversation will include the topic of professionalism and an open discussion with staff from Peoples State Bank, Wausau regarding their involvement with the local Hmong community. Bank leaders, managers, and HR professionals are encouraged to forward this opportunity on to bankers who may benefit from this inclusive forum.

Additionally, in conjunction with WBA’s DEI Plan to provide professional development opportunities and foster a welcoming, inclusive culture, I am excited to announce that WBA will be offering three educational scholarships to select WBA events this fall.

These scholarships, offered in partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, will be presented to bankers of historically underrepresented backgrounds — including, but not limited to, individuals of African American/Black, Asian/Asian American/Desi, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx/Spanish origin; members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and those part of a religious minority. Please share this scholarship opportunity with members of your staff as they look to expand their career within the banking industry.

WBA’s three educational scholarships will cover the registration fee of the selected program along with any overnight accommodation, as needed.

Scholarships are available for:

I encourage bankers to take this chance to invest in their professional development and share these various opportunities with members of their staff. It is ever so important for the prosperity of our banks and the communities in which they serve that individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels are supported in their pursuit of new degrees of leadership and opportunities to expand their career and network.

Triangle Background

Marquette University Commercial Banking Program welcomes fifth cohort since inception

Dr. Kent Belasco

By Cassandra Krause

The Commercial Banking Program at Marquette University in Milwaukee is one of very few undergraduate commercial banking programs in the country and has graduated 56 students since the program’s inception in 2017, with an additional 16 planned in the next year, at a minimum. At the helm of the program is Dr. Kent Belasco, a 37-year banker who pivoted to a full-time career in higher education after having taught part-time as an adjunct professor of finance while he worked as an executive vice president and chief information and operations officer at a bank. Belasco said his two main goals for the program are (1) to provide students with great career opportunities and (2) to provide talent to the industry.

Students in the finance major at Marquette have the option to choose a concentration in the Applied Investment Management Program or the Commercial Banking Program. Belasco developed an advisory board, built the curriculum for
the Commercial Banking Program, and has published a Fundamentals of Commercial Banking textbook. The program is highly experiential, allowing students to analyze actual small businesses in the community and internationally. Students complete two internships with banks during the program and have opportunities to participate in competitions and field trips to places near and far, like Chicago and Zurich, Switzerland. Marquette is also co-branding research on bank performance with Crowe LLP (a Wisconsin Bankers Association Associate Member), with which students can get involved.

Students complete their introductory classes in finance and typically apply to the Commercial Banking Program as sophomores. A 3.0 GPA
is required for participation in the program, and students complete rigorous coursework that equips them with knowledge and skills Belasco says many bankers may not otherwise acquire until many years into their careers. Banking careers provide the opportunity to earn a good living in a rewarding industry. Belasco noted that today’s students are socially conscious, want to make a difference, and want to give back to the community. When he explains how those values align with the banking industry, he finds that it resonates well with students. He opens one of his introductory classes with a quote from Jason DeSena Trennert’s book, My Side of the Street:

Modern banking… has been the single greatest contributor to human progress… Academics have long noted the strong correlation between modern banking systems and national wealth, allowing businesses to take on more risks in their efforts to grow. Prudent risks can lead to faster economic growth, more jobs, and greater innovation in all fields of human endeavor.

Students who complete the program have a solid command of banking principles and terminology, have worked on projects with businesses and non-profit community organizations, and are eager to grow in meaningful careers. The program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate of its graduates in banks. For bank leaders who are looking to connect with the program and its students, there are a number of avenues:

  • Offer an internship (many can be done remotely during the academic year and/or in person over breaks);
  • Sponsor a scholarship;
  • Host a field trip;
  • Volunteer on a panel or at a career night; and/or
  • Attend the annual conference.

Last year’s virtual cybersecurity conference had around 200 attendees, and the focus of this year’s conference will be climate/sustainability.

An ideal partnership, says Belasco, could look like the following: the bank identifies a student in their local community with an aptitude for banking, sponsors a scholarship for the student at Marquette, offers the student an internship, and then hires the student into a key position at the bank upon graduation. There is a lot of flexibility in how to get involved, and Belasco encourages bankers to reach out to him personally about their plans for succession and talent development.

Daryll Lund, WBA executive vice president and chief of staff, serves on the advisory board for Marquette’s Commercial Banking Program. “To have a specialized program of this quality right here in our state is a great asset for Wisconsin’s banking industry,” says Lund of the program. “I would encourage bankers to raise awareness of the program in their communities and to get involved as employer partners.”

The program is a “win-win-win” for students looking for rewarding careers, for banks seeking talented employees, and for the bank customers they serve.

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation has awarded UW-Platteville senior Alexis Boston and UW-River Falls junior Joseph Schlies with the 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship. The scholarship is given to two students who plan to go into a career in agriculture finance and who demonstrate in their application a strong understanding of the importance of financial literacy.

Boston is a declared agribusiness major expected to graduate this December. She has worked as an agribusiness professor assistant at UW-Platteville and currently is involved in many on-campus and community organizations including UW-Platteville’s Agribusiness Club, the Collegiate Farm Bureau, and the National Agri-Marketing Association.

Schlies is a declared agricultural business major. He currently holds two positions at the college as a teaching assistant in the Agricultural Economics Department and as a residential assistant. Previously, Schlies was the state president for the Wisconsin Association of FFA State Officers. He is also actively involved on his campus as the vice chair of the Finance Committee and at-large senator of the Student Government Association.

“Joseph and Alexis’s passion for agricultural finance and making an impact on their community is foundational to the qualifications for the Foundation’s Agricultural Banking Scholarship,” said Foundation Chair Rose Oswald Poels. “I am pleased that we are able to honor their achievements with this scholarship and wish them each much success in their future agribusiness careers.”

Joseph Schlies (center) accepts 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship from WBF Chair Rose Oswald Poels (second from left). Also pictured are: Dr. Dale Gallenberg, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (far left); Dr. Brenda Boetel, professor and chair of the Agricultural Economics Department (third from the right); Dr. Sierra Howry, associate professor of agricultural economics (second from right); and Tony Betley, vice president – senior agricultural banker at Nicolet Bank.

Alexis Boston (center) accepts 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship from WBF Chair Rose Oswald Poels (far left). Also pictured are: Nicholas Felder, vice president – commercial/ag banking at MidWestOne Bank (second from left); Chad Bahr, assistant vice president – agribusiness lending officer at Mound City Bank (second from right); and Donna Hoppenjan, president and CEO of Mound City Bank (far right).

Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) Spring Scholarships
Four $2,000 scholarships are now offered through the WBF each spring. This year’s application period is currently open, and WBF will continue to accept applications from high school seniors and college students through Tuesday, March 15, 2022.

Applications for WBF’s Spring Scholarships can be found on the WBF website.

Please contact WBA’s Hannah Flanders at hflanders@wisbank.com if you have any questions!

Graduate School of Banking (GSB) Human Resource Management School
Applications for The GSB Human Resource Management School Scholarship are due by February 18. Visit the WBA website to apply!

Triangle Background

Last spring, Jenna Raisbeck was awarded the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation’s (WBF) Agricultural Banking Scholarship. Originally from Lancaster, Wisconsin, Raisbeck is now a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville and holds a position as a credit analyst and branch marketing liaison at Community First Bank in Platteville.

This inaugural scholarship awarded two individuals attending accredited Wisconsin universities with career interests related to agricultural banking/finance a $1,000 scholarship towards their education. WBF is excited to soon announce the recipients of 2021’s Agricultural Banking Scholarship, which accepted applications in the fall.

Raisbeck was raised understanding the importance of agriculture to her local community, despite not living on a farm herself. As a credit analyst, she works closely with farmers and their credit and has come to realize the need for having good agricultural finance professionals and resources for farmers. Not only does her current position allow her to explore finance and banking, but it also combines her interests in the agricultural industry and helping her community.

Along with receiving the scholarship from WBF, Raisbeck also had the unique opportunity to enter the bank as an intern. “Most companies target graduating seniors for full-time positions, but hiring younger students as interns or tellers can be just as important,” she says. “In my experience, the bank has been able to teach me a lot since I started out so young and with little experience. They know what areas I am interested in and eventually can help me prepare for the right position.”

Following her graduation this January, Raisbeck plans to continue her banking career long term. Through opportunities such as job shadowing, she has decided to pursue lending because it will allow her to work closely with customers, utilize the financial skills established through her time as a credit analyst, and help customers reach their goals.

“Being the recipient of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Agricultural Banking Scholarship has benefited me by helping lighten my financial burden that comes with attending college,” says Raisbeck, “This has allowed me to focus more time on my courses which is important to my career. Without successfully completing these finance-focused courses, I would not be able to pursue the career I want long-term, nor would I be able to be in the position that I am now. Getting this recognition for all my hard work from the WBF means a great deal to me and motivates me to continue to push myself to be the best I can be.”

By Hannah Flanders

In 2008, Leah Wilson was awarded the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation (WBF) Spring Scholarship, which, at that time, was the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) Retail Banking Section “Technical College” Scholarship. While a lot has changed since the mid-2000s not only in Wilson’s career, but also in the banking industry; some things remain absolutely the same — bankers’ commitment to their communities and to the future success of the banking industry

Between her junior and senior year in high school, Wilson began her career in banking as a teller at Mid-Wisconsin Bank in Neillsville. Shortly after, she had decided that a career in banking would align well with her passion for business and math while also allowing her to work within the office setting she had always envisioned.

In the last several years, Wilson has held many positions throughout the bank from teller to personal banker and is now assistant vice president – mortgage lender and assistant branch manager at Citizens State Bank of Loyal in Neillsville. Her expertise in the industry is a result of her dedication to bettering her community and understanding how to navigate her career path.

As she looks back upon the last 14 years in the banking industry, she credits WBA’s scholarship for her ability to further her education at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire. While in the business management program, she was able to complete many courses that continue to be beneficial to her career.

In addition to the CVTC courses she pursued with the scholarship, Wilson has attended several courses offered by WBA, including Residential Mortgage Lending School and Lending Boot Camp, that have allowed continuous growth in her career. “I have learned a lot through the education opportunities provided by the WBA,” says Wilson. “I would encourage people to familiarize themselves with these opportunities and use them.”

Within the community banking environment, in which she has spent much of her career, Wilson has been able to take advantage of many opportunities offered in the bank to further explore several different departments and discover which career path was best suited for her goals and interests. The opportunities, provided in part by WBA and her bank, have allowed Wilson to take ownership of the career path she desired as well as continue to grow alongside the industry — long after the scholarship was awarded.

Ultimately, the opportunities have provided Wilson access to what she considers to be some of the “endless benefits of working in a community bank,” including the ability to build strong relationships with customers, develop deeper connections within the community, and develop her own path that aligns with her goals and interests.

Corn seedling

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Wisconsin Bankers Association and was granted public charity status in 2015. The mission of the Foundation is to promote financial literacy and financial responsibility to the public and to broaden consumer empowerment in the financial services industry through research, education, grants, and scholarships.

A well-known initiative of the Foundation is the programming for the annual Teach Children to Save Day in April. The Foundation staff coordinates the curriculum and provides the materials bankers use to present in K–12 classrooms around the state to promote good savings habits. The Foundation actively encourages bankers to engage in many financial education opportunities with their communities and recognizes banks and individual bankers with annual awards.

Currently the Foundation is accepting applications for its Agricultural Banking Scholarship, which is offered every year. This scholarship program is open to all students attending an accredited Wisconsin college, university, or technical college who are interested in pursuing a career in agricultural banking.

Two awards of $1,000 each will be given to qualified applicants who submit complete applications. The deadline for applications is Monday, November 15, 2021.

Please share this scholarship information far and wide in your community, including with any current/former agricultural banking interns and contacts you have in agricultural education programs. We look forward to hearing from students who are pursuing careers in this field!

Rose M. Oswald Poels President/CEO Headshot