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Kim Sponem, 2018 Wisconsin Idea Alumni Award Winner

Kim Sponem (’90) is committed to improving the financial well-being of families and cares deeply about her community at all levels: professional, local, and national. As CEO and President of one of the largest credit unions in Wisconsin since 2002, Sponem has received numerous awards for her leadership and community engagement. She regularly encourages women to support one another and give back as they pursue their own careers. In Kim’s words, “We don’t do these things for awards and recognition, we do them because they are the right thing to do.”

[Adapted from the nomination statement]

The Wisconsin Idea is built around the principle that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Kim is dedicated to that principle. Under her leadership, Summit Credit Union has developed innovative programs designed to strengthen financial capability in communities across Wisconsin: Summit’s Project Money, an annual public financial education program has participants compete to reduce debt, increase savings and share the lessons they learn along the way with thousands on TV and online. Kim led Summit in developing Red Shoes, a branded, personalized program to help people reach their first million.

She also came up with and partnered to found STAR Credit Union, a youth-chartered credit union designed specifically to give kids a hands-on experience in financial education, in saving for goals, and in running a credit union. Partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the program aims to help break the cycle of poverty. Under her leadership, both Project Money and Summit’s CUatWork, a workplace financial education program, earned a Governor’s Financial Literacy Award.

Kim’s leadership qualities, honed while an undergraduate at SoHE, have seamlessly transferred to her exemplary career and community leadership. She has represented consumers nationally, on the board of the Consumer Federation of America, and locally as chair-elect on the board of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. She leads Summit in an annual community celebration of co-operatives thousands attend.

No Place Like SoHE

Sponem is a proud graduate of the School of Human Ecology. She speaks passionately about her UW experience, remembering she found she could “combine business principles with a social impact—and make a good living doing it.” This succinct statement, combined with an extensive history of helping others, demonstrates Kim’s fitness for the Wisconsin Idea Alumni Award.

The School of Human Ecology Wisconsin Idea Alumni Award recognizes a graduate who has endeavored to improve human life by creating new or innovative projects, public engagement or service, and other avenues that lead to greater individual, family, community or consumer well-being.