WT Student-Led ECU Branch Opens in Canyon


CANYON, Texas — West Texas A&M University students have taken over the reins at the Buff $mart Education Credit Union branch in Canyon. 

Students make up the majority of the workforce at the newly redesigned branch at 2100 Fourth Ave., which officially opened March 20. 

A ribbon cutting is set for 4 p.m. April 3.  

Remodeling of the downtown Canyon branch location began after the new ECU Canyon branch opened at 1900 Farm-to-Market Road 2590 in October. 

“We are thrilled that with the completion of the Buff $mart branch, we now have two full-service branches to serve the Canyon area,” said Claudia Burkett, ECU’s Canyon market president and executive vice president. “Throughout the duration of this project we have been proud to engage WT students from 1910 PR and the ECU Buff $mart Program in ways that will in turn benefit them, their colleagues and the community. 

“We fully believe that this branch will equip students with workplace experiences that enrich their connection to the Canyon community, and we feel that the sky is the limit for the Buff $mart branch,” Burkett said. 

The full-service retail branch will provide the same financial services to ECU members that all branches offer, but outside of a few management-level ECU staffers, all other employees will be WT students. 

“We are excited to deepen our partnership with WT by offering invaluable opportunities to students through internships in multiple operational areas,” said Marcus Smith, ECU president and CEO. “Our hope is that these students gain impactful skills that, not only lead to success in their future endeavors, but their financial wellness as well.” 

The student-led branch was first announced in January 2022. 

Students will work in multiple operational areas, including marketing, accounting, compliance, business development and training. 

ECU formalized its partnership with WT in 2020 by making a significant donation to support the Education Credit Union Buff $mart Program, which provides money management education for WT students. The program helps students improve their understanding of financial literacy and empowers them to make informed choices to improve their financial well-being through one-on-one peer coaching, workshops and money management bootcamps. 

Now, the partnership extends to offering students paid internships through the student-led branch, said Meghan Williams, Buff $mart coordinator. 

“Through this initiative, we’ll be able to expand paid internship prospects, and students will get hands-on work experience and opportunities for community engagement and networking,” Williams said. 

Internships are valuable to students in a multitude of ways, said Kat Kane, director of WT’s Office of Career and Professional Development, adding that 95 percent of employers nationwide indicate that candidate experience is a factor in their hiring decisions. 

“We also know that WT students who engage in internships are more likely to graduate with a full-time job offer that pays well,” Kane said. “Post-graduation data shows that their starting salaries are $3,200 more on average than students who graduated without participating in an internship. Experiential learning and these types of connections to local employers are at the forefront of our work.”  

The WT-ECU partnership at the newly remodeled branch also included the development of a new logo and interior photo collages spearheaded by 1910 PR, WT’s student-run PR firm. 

Imparting the value of work on its students is a key tenet of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. 

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One Westcomprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $120 million.