Even after 32 years in the banking business, Cindy Carlson ’81, senior vice president of commercial banking at Western Bank, a Division of American National Bank, does not identify herself as “a numbers person.”
“I like to think of myself more as a ‘relationship manager,’ helping businesses to achieve greater success through the right financial services and to make more strategic connections,” she said.
For Carlson, commercial banking means more than just helping a business with loans and other banking services. “As a commercial banker, you contribute not only to the wellbeing of the business, but also to the wellbeing of its employees, its customers, and the community in which the business resides,” she said.
Carlson began her education at Lakewood Community College (now Century College). While she thoroughly enjoyed learning from the professors and working on campus, she desired a smaller urban educational experience. After attaining an associate’s degree at Lakewood, she transferred to Hamline University, where she ultimately completed her Bachelor of Business Administration degree.
“I was drawn to the smaller campus setting, where I would quickly assimilate and feel right at home. Hamline was the perfect fit,” Carlson said. “As a transfer student, I never once felt like an outsider—I was warmly welcomed from the start.”
During her studies at Hamline, Carlson participated in the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), an organization that provides experiential off-campus and study abroad programs with a focus on justice and social change. For one semester, in Saint Paul, Carlson and 15 other students in the program met with their facilitator to discuss urban studies and social justice themed topics, toured different local businesses and facilities, and wrote papers on the various topics they discussed.
Part of Carlson’s studies also included an internship with the City of Saint Paul, where she worked in the business revitalization division of the Department of Planning and Economic Development, helping to connect small business owners and community members to local services. “The internship made me aware that there are opportunities to be involved in the business community to improve life for others,” Carlson said.
The internship proved to be a life-changing experience for Carlson. “I hadn’t really been engaged in civic mindedness before my HECUA experience,” she said. “Afterward, I knew more fully what it meant to be a part of the community.”
Carlson’s internship led to a full time position with the City of Saint Paul. After two years, she took a position with Western State Bank (now Western Bank, a Division of American National Bank) and has been employed there ever since. In her current role as senior vice president of commercial banking, she connects regularly with small business owners and other constituents for the betterment of their businesses and the broader community. “I feel honored to be a part of the rich history Western Bank has of community involvement,” she said. “Everyone here is invested in the community.”
Carlson’s commitment to community does not stop at her workplace. She volunteers regularly with the New Brighton/Mounds View Rotary Club as the Chair of International Service and in various club projects and activities. Carlson also spends considerable time volunteering on the Rotary District level as a grants mentor to improve lives through worthwhile local and international service projects.
In addition, Carlson has served in various leadership roles in her church community and participates in other service activities, like packaging food for the non-profit organization Feed My Starving Children. “I feel so grateful to be in a position where I can serve my community and world,” she said. “It gives a richness and meaning to my life that I value so much.”
Carlson believes her Hamline experience directly impacted where she is today. “At Hamline, I was encouraged to think deeper,” she said. “I use my critical thinking skills everyday to make meaningful contributions that benefit my employer, our customers, and our community as a whole.”
Find out more about the undergraduate business majors offered through the School of Business on the website. You can also contact Hamline's Undergraduate Admission Office to learn more about joining the Hamline community.