Donald Neal: Creating Pathways for Minorities
Donald Neal Jr., ’03, arrived at the College of Business from Rochester, New York, ready to focus on accounting and shine on the Husker track team. Twenty years later, he combines his competitive spirit and accounting knowledge to lead the way, creating pathways for others to follow his footsteps.
“Getting Black students and more minorities into the accounting profession is extremely important moving forward,” said Neal, who helps lead diversity and inclusion efforts at KPMG in Omaha, Nebraska, where he works as a senior tax manager in development and exempt organizations. “When students get a chance to see individuals like me serving in leadership positions, it helps change the narrative for young people. They see it’s achievable.”
Neal, who also pursued football his freshman year, credits staff such as Keith Zimmer, senior associate athletic director of life skills in the Nebraska Department of Athletics, with helping develop his career-building tools and set his priorities.
“Keith helped teach me how to balance my schedule between athletics and academics. Tutoring and scheduled study time kept me on the straight and narrow to support my grades. After a couple years, he also helped me realize I needed to stop playing football to balance my time because the intermediate accounting classes got a lot tougher,” he said.
Zimmer saw Neal’s positive contributions as a Husker and, in his professional years thereafter, as a leader in Nebraska business.
“Don has an infectious smile combined with determination and drive,” said Zimmer. “He serves as a role-model for student-athletes when they see him recruiting at our career fairs. He was a talented multisport athlete and remains a proud ambassador of Husker Athletics.”
Neal also helped the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) fulfill their mission of facilitating minority hiring in the industry and achieving academic and professional excellence.
Andee Capell: Advocating for Inclusion
As a first-generation college student, Andee Capell, ’20 & ’21, sought ways to better herself and help others believe in the power of every person at Nebraska.
“The culture in the College of Business pushes you, but everyone is still friendly and wants to get to know you. You’re able to navigate it with a support network you might not get at a bigger school,” said Capell, who credits Neal as an important influence in her collegiate career.
“From the moment I began recruiting with KPMG, Donald was a great resource,” Capell said. “He attended our Multicultural Business Student Association networking event and came to our DREAMBIG Academy for high school students in the summer.”
Capell became one of the first Embark Scholars at KPMG, a program for underrepresented students studying accounting or related fields. Neal advised her on ways to benefit most in the program, and she shared suggestions on how to enhance it.
As Capell mentored others in the DREAMBIG Academy and the First Husker program, Dr. Aaron Crabtree, director of the SOA, noticed her ability to create a feeling of inclusion. He encouraged her to attend the NABA regional conference and supported establishing a NABA chapter at the college.
“With an official NABA chapter at the College of Business, we can build a sense of belonging for our underrepresented groups,” said Crabtree. “When students leave Nebraska, they will encounter many diverse people and in accounting we need to help our clients, regardless of what we may have or not have in common.”
Ahmed Ahmed: Discovering a Community
When Ahmed Ahmed, senior accounting major from Khartoum, Sudan, started in the School of Accountancy, he found a major that not only played to his strengths, but also a community rooted in inclusivity and support.
Then he met Maluba Mudundulu, ’19 & ’20, an MPA student who shared how she and Capell started the NABA chapter. She encouraged Ahmed to come to a meeting and attend the national conference.
“I had never been to something specific to my degree with people of color,” he said. “Now I want to make sure students get that same experience I had, where they see people who look like them going into the same profession.”
As he helped build the NABA chapter, he was named November Student of the Month at the College of Business. In addition, Ahmed was selected as the 2020-21 CoB Student of the Year in May. Graduating with his undergraduate degree this December, he plans to pursue his MPA at Nebraska.
“Having students take charge and help lead the student chapter is huge. It lets us know the footprint we started is paying dividends,” said Neal.