Communicating openly and honestly Creating an awesome work environment Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Susie McCormick November 30, 2023

Driving Culture Forward at Fall 2023 Innovation Week

Celebrating the power of innovation at Nelnet is one of the primary goals of Innovation Week, but it’s also about building and maintaining a culture of creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. The focus of the event that took place Nov. 13-17, 2023 was culture: emphasizing how innovation can positively impact and create advancements within our culture.

As always, many thanks go out to the Innovation Week Planning Team for their time and effort in putting together a thought-provoking agenda and inspirational sessions. It’s the enthusiastic participation, spirit of collaboration, and creative ideas brought forward by Nelnet’s associates who participated that truly make the events of Innovation Week a success.

Prior to the event, associates were encouraged to check out the agenda and attend as many of the week’s events as their schedules allowed. The agenda was packed with inspirational learning sessions, panels, fireside chats, and events such as Culture Quest—a hackathon-style experience that used the BuildIT framework Nelnet employed in past Innovation Weeks. (BuildIT is a hackathon that allows associates to collaborate and build camaraderie on self-chosen teams as they create proofs of concept and minimum viable products for a specific problem or new concept.)

The following events were held during work hours during the week of Nov. 13-17.

Innovation Week Kickoff and Panel. This panel of executives, directors, and managers who are actively involved in innovation and culture at Nelnet discussed the importance of being proactive in implementing culture-related programming, as well as trends in the corporate landscape relating to culture and innovation. Featured speakers included Terry Chvatal, Matt Dunlap, Rachel Edwards, Chuck Norris, Ryan Regnier, and Jessica Schumacher.

Nelnet Innovation in Progress Presentations. These presentations included three culture-related innovation projects that have led to transformation at Nelnet, each with an overview of the innovation process from concept to reality. Featured speakers included Courtney Haindel, Stacy Sporie, Marc Thorson, and Josh Wenger.

Nelnet Culture Survey: Results and Next Steps. The annual Nelnet Culture Survey helps us understand to associate sentiment and evaluate the next steps needed to make Nelnet an even more awesome place to work. Ben Kiser, Jeff Noordhoek, Kelly McKeever, Joe Popevis, and DeeAnn Wenger provided an overview of the 2023 Nelnet Culture Survey findings and answered associates’ questions about the results.

Culture Quest. This hackathon-style, two-day event allowed Nelnet associates to propose ideas, collaborate in teams, and present culture-focused ideas to enhance the personal and professional lives of our associates. Teams had access to resources necessary to identify the financial, legal, and cultural impact of their ideas. After ideas were pitched to fellow associates and leadership, the opportunity for implementation followed the event.

Unlocking the Power of AI in Your Daily Work: A Culture Learning Session. Josh Jones led a session to empower associates with knowledge about what AI is, its various applications, and how it can be integrated into daily tasks to boost efficiency and provide valuable data-driven insights—regardless of an associate’s technical background.

Nelnet Spark featuring Luke Moberly. Stanford University student and entrepreneur Luke Moberly founded Bumper, an investing app to help teens learn more about and experiment with investing. We heard his story and had the opportunity to ask questions about his experience.

Ageless Innovation: Multi-Generational Perspectives Shaping Our Company Culture. This lively learning session celebrated the dynamic interplay between company culture and the unique experiences, strengths, and perspectives of associates from different generations. Nelnet associates who represent Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers shared insight in this enriching conversation about our workforce’s diverse makeup. Participants included Mary Woodruff, Tom Massey, Mike Soucie, Dawnelle Docter, Jordan Paul, and Emily Kist.

Hudl + Nelnet Culture Fireside Chat. Nelnet Diversified Services Culture Director Jessica Schumacher led a culture-centric conversation with two people-focused leaders from Hudl: Dr. Karen Kassebaum, Sr. Manager, Diversity and Social Responsibility, and Jasmine Kingsley, Chief People and Legal Officer. Each shared their journey of building and growing their organizational cultures, learning from their mission and values.

All sessions were recorded and made available on the portal for associates who were unable to attend.

Events like Innovation Week make it easier for Nelnet to make its already great culture even better. The event provides an effective outlet for associates to learn about innovation; collaborate and present their creative ideas for improving culture; and share open feedback with executive leadership. Planning is already under way for the next Innovation Week in 2024.


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Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer