Cameroon native, Dr. Herita Akamah, ’07, assistant professor of accountancy, found a deep connection between Central Africa and Lincoln, Nebraska. The bonds found through the culture brought her to Nebraska twice – first as an MPA student and almost 10 years later as faculty – making Nebraska the perfect home away from her homeland.
“The culture in Nebraska made it easy to integrate,” said Akamah, whose parents also now live in Lincoln. “For a younger person moving to a foreign country there are adjustments to make, but the cultural shock is harder for an older person. Nebraska is so welcoming. People you pass say ‘hello’ and ask how you’re doing. My dad was waiting for a bus when we first got here and someone asked if he needed a ride. When I was looking for a faculty position, I was thinking about what would be a good job for me professionally, but also the right environment for my parents.”
Akamah completed her master’s degree in 2007, worked at a CPA firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and then earned her Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Oklahoma. Her efforts led to the fulfillment of a dream to become a professor she did not know was possible when she first moved to the U.S.
“In Cameroon, I had no problem tutoring anyone,” she said. “When I came to Nebraska, I wondered if people could even understand what I was saying. When that barrier is standing in your way how can you teach anything?”
Working with other students in the MPA program, she found American students gravitating to her in study sessions. Her ability to help others progressed rapidly.
“When we started having study groups it was just me and one classmate. Then he brought two friends and over time the group grew. It often turned into a teaching session with me going to the board to give instruction. I figured out the language wasn’t much of a barrier after all,” said Akamah.
Dr. Aaron Crabtree wasted little time providing Akamah the opportunity to utilize her teaching skills at Nebraska when she joined in 2016. He assigned her to Intermediate Accounting II (ACCT 314), which he believes is a lynchpin course for student success.
“Herita teaches the hardest course we offer. Watching her interact with students and answer their questions validates we hired a good teacher. Employers go to that course to see how students performed because if you don’t understand financial accounting you can’t audit, you can’t make the adjustments to tax and you can’t manage the finances. Having a fundamental grasp of those concepts is vital,” said Crabtree.
He also praised Akamah for strengthening the research prestige of the school. She won a best paper award at the International Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association for an early paper examining how transactions with tax payments affect the way U.S. multinational companies comply with reporting requirements.
“That paper let me interact a lot more with international people. It created new contacts which continues to spur other international research. It also provided encouragement that I have chosen the right path,” she said.
She also knows she made the right choice with Nebraska.
“Having my family around and having their support is wonderful,” she said. “Anytime I wonder if I made the right choice, I just talk to my parents and they tell me, ‘You made the perfect choice.’”