Supporting a busy tax season

After unique GSU learning experiences, new double alumna Winifred Akande launches global accounting career

Overlooking downtown Atlanta from her 11th floor office, 23-year-old Winifred “Wini” Akande is heading into her first federal tax deadline with clients from around the world.

After graduating in December with her Master of Taxation degree from Georgia State University, where she had received her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2010, Akande joined Ernst & Young. She helps advise clients across the globe on domestic and international tax issues.

She landed her position with help from the polish and experience she gained at GSU from unique programs funded through university donors.

In 2009, Akande won a spot in the competitive Panthers on Wall Street program, joining other business students in an intensive introduction to the nation’s financial district. The program taught her how to make a positive, lasting first impression with business contacts. She learned how to profile a company and keep up with relevant industry issues, news and trends.

It culminated in a trip to New York that boosted her confidence, which carried over to a recent work trip to Manhattan on behalf of her employer.

“Going to GSU doesn’t mean I can’t hold my own with someone from the Ivy League,” she said. “Panthers on Wall Street gave me confidence behind my school and degree. I know what I’m doing. I had that confidence in me, and Panthers on Wall Street helped bring it out.”

In 2010, Akande was awarded a $2,500 Nita B. Robinson Study Abroad Scholarship, which is intended to further a GSU student’s understanding of the global business environment. This funding helped Akande travel to South Africa. In summer 2011, she earned her final credits for her masters in a GSU study abroad program in Russia.

“My family is not wealthy, but I was able to go on these experiences without taking student loans,” said Akande, whose sister Tosin is a GSU senior majoring in psychology. “The resources are at GSU, if you know where to look, and you make sure to talk to the people who know.”

Akande represents GSU’s deep roots in Atlanta and broad reach to the world. A “Grady baby,” Akande grew up in Powder Springs. She will turn 24 shortly before tax filing day on April 15.

Her position at Ernst & Young gives her a global view from Atlanta. Recently, she communicated by e-mail to colleagues in 50 countries. Her GSU experiences helped her craft language that would be understood across cultures.

When she hit “send,” she appreciated that her message would cross borders and time zones, where others would read the message after she went to bed.

“I know that someone in Trinidad and Tobago wouldn’t read it that day because their offices were closed for Mardi Gras,” she said. “When issues do come up, I can appreciate those because of my GSU education. If I need to, I know I can formulate a new plan.”

At GSU, Akande benefited from other sources of funding as well. She twice received the GSU International Education Fee (IEF) Study Abroad Scholarship.

When she won the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Minority Scholarship, the AICPA website noted, “Beyond her creative and entertaining essay, Wini had a 4.03 GPA, a glowing letter of recommendation from a school director and tons of leadership experience, including serving as president of [honor society]Beta Alpha Psi and not only leading, but founding the Women of Robinson, which seeks to advance female students into the corporate world. Her list of awards and achievements is as long as your arm, and considerably stronger.”

At GSU, Akande’s résumé models what is possible for current students.

“By taking advantage of these programs, Wini not only grew personally and professionally, she made numerous contacts and helped fund her education,” said Allison Jacobs, director of student services at Robinson’s School of Accountancy.

“I often refer to Wini in my advising sessions, as an example to urge students today to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities Robinson provides.”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424