Amber Ljunggren-Chapman first ventured beyond her comfort zone in 2000, when her family moved to Colorado Springs from Pueblo of Laguna, a federally recognized Native American reservation near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Coming from a place that I knew everybody, I grew up with everybody, I’d had the same friends since I was in kindergarten — I was so excited about the opportunity to move from what I knew,” said Ljunggren-Chapman, now 32.
Since then, many of Ljunggren-Chapman’s personal and professional milestones have come from taking risks. She joined Ent Credit Union in 2007 as a member service representative, working in collections and marketing before landing in her current role as emerging development leader.
“I definitely took a leap with this one,” she said. “In my personal life, I take a lot of — I don’t want to call them risks, but I seize opportunities. In the last couple years, I’ve really tried to apply that professionally — living outside of my comfort zone and taking smart risks when I need to, and I really think that that has served me well.”
A 2005 graduate of Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Ljunggren-Chapman has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Kaplan University. She and her husband, Tim Chapman, live in Colorado Springs with their 8-year-old daughter, Penny.
Ljunggren-Chapman talked with the Business Journal this week about the credit union movement, taking professional risks and what exactly an emerging development leader does.
Talk about the transition from Pueblo of Laguna to Colorado Springs.
It wasn’t as big of a culture shock to me as it could have been. I feel like I did a good job of assimilating into different cultures and environments, so I was fine with it. It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I really started to notice that I’m usually the only ethnic person in the room. … We try and get her integrated into the culture so she actually knows her roots and can spend time with my family who still lives there. … Culture is an aspect of what makes my daughter who she is, and I think that because I’m able to take her to New Mexico and she can learn from my aunts, my uncles and my sisters about where we came from, that’s really, really important.
You have been with Ent for 12 years. Did you always plan on staying there long-term?
Not initially. I had started at Ent to put myself through college. … My daughter was born the year I graduated from college and at that point, I knew we needed to have something, because I have this family that I’m responsible for. [Ent] was such a great place for me because Ent cares about their members and also their lives.
… Being part of a credit union, I get to be part of a movement. The philosophy of credit unions is people helping people, and that’s something I’m very, very passionate about. … I think that’s my calling — I’m a helper, regardless [of whether] I had used my degree and helped people with their health. I’m doing the same with helping people with their financial health, or helping our internal employees [by] making sure that they have the resources, tools and education that they need to be successful.
… Through Ent, no matter what position, I found I’ve always been able to be engaged with the community. They really encourage it, and I fell in love with credit unions because of that.
Can you elaborate on the credit union movement?
… Being part of the credit union movement means being part of a cooperative. A lot of credit unions work together, so if a credit union in Florida needs to know best practices, then we’re happy to share. Also … our members are our owners. At a bank, they have stockholders and boards to answer to, and primarily with credit unions, our members are our direction.
What are your professional responsibilities?
The emerging development leader is actually a new thing that Ent is doing. I basically get to help make sure that our projects in the departments I’m working with align with our strategic initiatives. … I’m doing a rotation for two years where I’ll be in four different departments. My first rotation was community education, and now I’m switching to a second rotation with learning and development. After that, I’ll go to philanthropy and innovation, and my final rotation will be [in human resources].
… The goal is at the end, the four of us who are emerging development leaders will be well versed and able to take on leadership positions.
What have you learned from your rotations so far?
With community education, we are focused on meeting our members and helping their financial wellness and well-being. Then with learning and development, it’s really [an] internal focus, so making sure that our employees are taken care of and that they have the knowledge and tools and resources that they need to be successful at their jobs. So the education was more external focus on community and then learning and development is internal.
… Without our members, we wouldn’t exist, but in order to serve our members how we need to, we really have to have our employees be educated and have the resources so that they can serve them in the greatest capacity.
How do you feel this role has prepared you for the rest of your career?
It definitely makes you look outside of your comfort zone a little bit. … I really feel like the turning point for my career was when I decided to join the Young Professionals Board. … I’ve developed such strong friendships and connections, and I’ve learned a lot and had a lot of experiences through that. I feel like being part of that has really made me take more risks, and it was because I had a peer mentor group. … There were three other ladies, including me, who were on the board for four or five years together, and it was really, really great to have that peer mentorship and bounce ideas off each other. I think once I joined that, that’s when I decided to take the leap from going [from] collections to marketing. In marketing, I had a lot of personal and professional growth in that area, and then that really ultimately prepared me to take this great leap of becoming an emerging development leader.
What role can credit unions play in the community?
That’s our focus — people helping people. And if our members are not [doing] well, then that makes a huge difference as to how we are doing business. … To me, it’s not all about finances. When you hear ‘financial institution,’ that’s automatically what people think, but for me, it’s about people — whether that’s external or internal, I’m in the business of people.
… There’s a quote out there where it talks about how in the past, it was about muscle, and now it’s about brains, but in the future, it’s all about heart. And I think that’s where I land mostly, is in the realm of the heart.
How else are you involved in the community?
Through [Ent’s] Young Professional group, I have organized quarterly volunteer activities. Some of the major companies we work with are Children’s Hospital — we decorated their area for Halloween. We work a lot with Care and Share. … We work with United Way…. And we helped raise $60,000 for different shelters across Colorado, the Humane Society included. We did that with a bunch of different fundraiser events. … Then personally, because I’m a mom, my favorite place to volunteer is with my daughter. I volunteer a lot at her school — on Mondays, I volunteer in the classroom reading to her peers. And I volunteered to teach her Girl Scout troop about money and took them to a service center.
What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?
… I’m not just about my career. There are so many different aspects to us as humans, and it seems that the most important thing is that you just take advantage of the experiences that life has offered you. … We really struggled to have [my daughter] and so … I feel like I do a good job of rising up from adversities to make sure that I’m the best version of myself. I don’t think I would be the woman I am without having gone through all that. I’ve done some really cool things — I was a gestational surrogate for some friends. My husband and I … decided to downsize and live in 310 square feet, so we were part of the tiny house community for a while. … I think that having my child has made me live life more because … I really want my daughter to know growing up that, as a woman, you can have it all, whether that’s adventure, family, a career — whatever she wants, it’s up for grabs.