For University of Wisconsin Oshkosh assistant accounting professor Kazeem Akinyele, the most gratifying part of his work is knowing he’s making a difference in the lives of students.
“I really love teaching because I love impacting knowledge and sharing what I know,” Akinyele said. “Teaching gives me the opportunity to learn something myself and then share it with people—inspire people.”
What sets this professor apart is his attitude beyond the classroom. Akinyele is a true example of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” In turn, he shares his experiences to motivate and inspire his students.
Akinyele comes from humble roots born and raised in the small city of Abeokuta, Nigeria. He was the first in his family to attend college, which is a significant accomplishment for anyone living in Nigeria.
Throughout Akinyele’s formative years, it was clear he was gifted. His family, friends and even the families of his friends took notice of his abilities and sought to offer what little they had to help him succeed.
“The way we live there—we live these communal lives,” Akinyele explained. “When you have someone whom you want to support … you’re doing it to see if you can elevate the poverty … extend a helping hand.”
During his years at Obafemi Awolowo University, he devoted all of his time and energy to academics. Without employment or a steady source of income, he relied on the few financial resources his family could provide. He often borrowed textbooks from friends and slept on spare couches in order to live within his means.
In Nigeria, college education isn’t generally pursued by individuals like Akinyele, but this was an all or nothing attempt to make a better life for himself. “One step at a time,” he would tell himself. “I wouldn’t allow myself to be discouraged because I didn’t have enough resources for what would come next, so I’d push forward. I’d have the idea of conquering anything.”
The education system in the United States is a stark contrast to that in Nigeria. The U.S. has a multitude of financial assistance programs, grants and scholarships in comparison; even the option of student loans, he would argue, is better than not having an option at all.
Even the various types of secondary education institutions—from traditional universities to trade schools—open the doors for students to find their niche. “Here in the United States, you don’t have to be the best of the best—you’ll find something that you can be the best in,” Akinyele said.
All of these resources, all of these opportunities, make him a passionate advocate for student success. He understands the hardships any given student may face, and he genuinely wants to help them through it. “My advice is no matter what anybody is going through, look at it from the angle that tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” Akinyele said. “It’s a matter of time, and if you keep pushing, you’ll get through.”
On campus, Akinyele teaches both cost management and essentials of managerial accounting for undergraduate students. In his classroom, he strives to form a conducive environment facilitating open dialogue so he, too, can learn from his students. “I don’t limit myself to learning from only those who are superior to me,” Akinyele said. “We all need improvement in our lives. We are all still learning. As we’re teaching, we are learning too.”
Akinyele has been with UW Oshkosh since fall 2017. Chris Jones, assistant professor of accounting and incoming department chair, is grateful to have the new faculty member as part of the accounting team. His values align perfectly with those of the accounting department.
“He’s an extremely nice and caring person who has a passion for teaching and research and is constantly striving to improve. Couple that with his deep love for his family, I don’t think we could have found a better fit,” Jones said.
Even in his research, Akinyele’s uplifting nature is personified through scholarly activity. He studies informal management control systems and how these systems influence employee performance. His data evaluates various ways in which employers can motivate employees, shape a company culture and achieve the overall goal of the organization.
“How I get my fulfillment everyday—it’s kindness,” Akinyele said. “Being nice to people, being kind to people makes me have this sense of personal fulfillment. I go home and I feel great about myself. Yes, I’ve impacted life today.”