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MADISON, Wis. – Most people don’t associate playing golf with education, but officials with CUNA’s Center for Professional Development (CPD) insisted that the association’s newest education offering for executives, “Learning from the Links: Lessons in Leadership” will provide credit union executives with precisely a kind of education they can get nowhere else. For $2,195, “Credit Union Executives who wish to enhance their leadership skills and improve their golf skills” will spend from October 20-23 at the Tampa Bay, Florida, Saddlebrook Resort being tutored in golf by Brad Brewer, co-founder of the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy, and in leadership by Rick Olson, a “strategic leadership” trainer who has helped train the staff of over a dozen large credit unions and other credit union organizations. “Anyone familiar with a ropes course is familiar with the learning concept we are using in the Lessons from the Links,” said Tom Decker, manager of executive education for CUNA’s Center for Professional Development. So-called “ropes courses”, along with other types of outdoor and sports related courses, are part of what is called “experiential learning” or “learning through doing.” Originating in the so-called “Outward Bound” programs, which were originally founded to help troubled young people, this type of experiential learning has steadily increased to include many different educational participants, including executives, according to the American Society of Training and Development. ASTD’s State of the Industry report for 2002 found that total training expenditures increased on both a per employee basis ($677 in 1999 to $704 in 2000) and as a percentage of annual payrolls (1.8% in 1999 versus 2% in 2000). Although the report did not break down the training by type, ASTD spokeswoman Jennifer Homer maintained that experiential education is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry. Golf topics to be covered over the three days include topics like: mastering the fundamentals (full swing); scoring zone (putting and chipping); and pitching and short irons (80 yards and in). Leadership topics include topics like: Creating a dynamic, productive team of workers; transferring your vision to others; training tips that really work and leadership lessons from the best. “Think about it,” Decker said, “is someone going to learn more about something like leadership from reading about it or having someone stand in the front of a classroom and talk about it? Or is someone going to learn more about it from putting the principles into practice in something competitive like sports or in an outdoor experience?” Decker pointed to CUNA’s Executive Boot Camp program, which mixes training on leadership with a rapid, “boot camp” style atmosphere that includes early rising; calisthenics in the mornings; and testing into a three-day program which is designed to pack six months’ material into three days. Interestingly, the boot camp program advertises itself as specifically not including any golf, and Decker said that Learning from the Links was designed to offer experiential learning that was less extreme than boot camp or a ropes course might be. Decker said CUNA felt confident about experiential learning programs because the former participants in more traditional classroom type education had indicated that they wanted programs that would teach them but also get them out doing more things as part of the learning process. “This is what we heard our participants wanted, what they said they are looking for,” Decker said. Previous participants in Executive Boot Camp appeared to bear Decker out. “Probably the best CUNA program I’ve been to. I will never look at an educational session the same. I learned more about myself, credit union, and understanding others in these three days (seemed longer!) than I have in the last 20 years of being in the CU Movement,” wrote an Executive Boot Camp participant who asked her name be withheld. Another wrote: “This program has challenged me more, both mentally and physically, than any seminar or educational session since college, more than 35 years ago.” Mike Miller, senior vice president for the CPD said that based on the feedback CUNA has received from participants so far it is committed to the experiential learning concept and will likely offer experiential courses along a spectrum of physical difficulty, from “mild”, which would include Learning from the Links, to “medium”, which would include Executive Boot Camp to “hot” which might include more courses styled on an Outward Bound-like model. [email protected]

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