The personal stories making up the unique tapestry of culture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business come from around the world. Dr. Herita Akamah, assistant professor of accounting, traveled nearly 7,000 miles from her home country of Cameroon to create her story at Nebraska Business. She found that although there are cultural differences, some of the core similarities remain the same.
Akamah’s story began after receiving her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Boyacá in Cameroon in 2005. She came to the U.S. through the diversity lottery program to start a new life in America soon after.
“Someone in Lincoln who knew my mom said I could live with them, and that’s how I arrived in Nebraska,” said Akamah. “It took a few months to get a stable job and put some money together before I registered for the MPA program at Nebraska.”
She worked at a property management company as their accountant, and quickly became acclimated to her new hometown while earning her MPA. One area which foretold her eventual career as a professor happened while helping other students.
“In elementary school, I would get opportunities to teach others. The teacher would give problems to class and tell me to show everyone how to do it. It felt good helping other people gain a better understanding,” she said.
After coming to the U.S., Akamah believed it would be difficult to replicate her efforts teaching classmates. She thought her accent might hinder her dream of becoming a teacher.
“Surprisingly, I had classmates at Nebraska pleading with me to come in and help them study for exams. I thought it was going to be a study session, but ended up with me showing them how to solve problems. That helped me see I could teach in the U.S.,” said Akamah.
Professors in the program also picked up on her potential for a career in academia, and encouraged her in that direction. She delved into research topics with the idea of earning a Ph.D.
“I started to read more about it, and at that point had passed two parts of the CPA exam, so I decided to go work for a CPA firm in Colorado Springs after earning my MPA in 2007. After working three years, I went to the University of Oklahoma to get my Ph.D.,” she said.
After receiving her Ph.D., Akamah entered the job market to find a university to match her enthusiasm for both teaching and research. There was one institution she remembered fondly.
“I knew I loved Lincoln. I knew I liked the faculty at Nebraska, but I wanted to interview to check things out. I had offers at several schools but the fact that Nebraska Business is growing their programs and changing dramatically by moving into this new building was appealing. I could feel the energy here and wanted to be part of the growth,” said Akamah.
Dr. Aaron Crabtree, director of the School of Accountancy, associate professor of accountancy and KPMG Fellow, helped instruct Akamah as a student while in the MPA program. He believed she could fit in with the trajectory of the college.
“It’s unusual that someone I taught in the master’s program went and got a Ph.D., and then wanted to come back. Seeing the whole thing come full circle is fulfilling on my end to know we had an impact on her that she wanted to return,” said Crabtree.
Crabtree lauded Akamah for her early career work in the area of research. He noted her research spans a broad range of interests.
“She’s doing research in tax, financial and international areas. Given the breadth of her interests, I think she’s going to have a big impact on the field of accounting as her career progresses. She’s only at the beginning stages, and she’s already won a best paper award at the International Accounting Conference,” he said.
This summer Akamah travels to the Netherlands to a conference to present a new audit research paper. Next fall she begins her third year teaching at the College of Business.
“I knew this was a good job, but now that I’ve been here a while even my parents tell me, ‘You made the perfect choice.’ For me it is perfect – the people, the community and everyone is so nice even to strangers, which is all familiar to my own family because it’s just like my home culture in Cameroon.”