Lagos, Nigeria is a long way from East Lansing, Michigan. And both Lagos and East Lansing are nowhere near London, England.
But as Aishat Akinwale first traveled from Africa to America to study at the Eli Broad College of Business, and then moved to one of Europe’s great global crossroads cities for her post-graduate career, she reduced our big world to a manageable scale.
“MSU helped me build a sense of self and made me realize that the world — both accounting and in general — is much smaller and beaming with a (more) diverse range of opportunities than I had initially thought,” said Akinwale (BA Accounting ’15; Honors College ’15; MS Accounting ’16), who is a technical associate for the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, a not-for-profit group developing global accounting norms.
“At MSU, I was challenged to live in service to others and to lead boldly as I pursued my interests. Through these experiences that MSU afforded me, I learned a lot more about myself and grew more confident about my place in the world,” she said. “I have grown up knowing I have potential, but MSU taught me to dream big!”
Akinwale arrived at MSU in 2011, just shy of 17 years old. “Moving to another country where I had no close family at the age of 16 was very daunting but the way I was onboarded by OISS (MSU’s Office for International Students and Scholars) and ASU (the MSU African Students Union) really made MSU start to feel like home quicker than I thought would have been possible,” she said.
Her start at Broad was in Accounting 201 with emeritus faculty member Charles Bokemeier, who also became her college advisor. She calls him “Dr. B” and a “legend … As if I wasn’t already sold on accounting, his class refined my love for accounting. Accounting just clicked for me and his teaching style was just (so) incredible that I was most always attending his office hours,” she said.
“Dr. B does this cool thing where he send emails to the top scorers (in ACC 201) at the end of the semester. I still have the email I got from him and I often go back to it for inspiration because he concluded by saying, ‘You will make a great accountant!'” she said.
“Dr. B quickly became my advocate in the accounting department and in many ways, I credit a lot of the opportunities I had through Broad to him,” she said. Those opportunities included her involvement with the prestigious Postgraduate Technical Assistant program at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (or IASB, which is overseen by the IFRS Foundation) in 2016-17.
She was also selected in 2014 to represent MSU and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where she interned for three summers, in the PwC Aspire to Lead webcast. There, she joined Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in discussing the empowerment of women in business.
Now living on her third continent, Akinwale hopes to someday take home the lessons she’s learned while globe-trotting: “My long-term ambition is to go back to Nigeria and contribute to its economic development. I have high hopes of becoming a senior official in the ministry of finance, managing and controlling the finances of the federal government.”
She also wouldn’t mind paying things forward. “I would also like to be in a teaching capacity someday,” she said. “I’m still unsure about getting a Ph.D. but being an adjunct professor is something that I really aspire toward.”
Akinwale advises today’s Broad Spartans to take advantage of all “those amazing out-of-class opportunities,” including career firs, student organizations, firm presentations and the Lear Corporation Career Services Center.
“No matter what major you are in, there are plentiful opportunities at the Broad College to help you get closer to attaining — and even finding — your career goal,” she said. “The truth about those opportunities is they are not attained on a platter of gold; they are earned on merit and with commitment and dedication to excel. Be open, inquisitive and positive and the world will seem smaller than you had thought was possible.”