By Hannah Barker, Class of '14
Before college, Akosua Addo remembers parents and teachers giving her lots of differing advice on what she should choose as a major and a career.
"Go into nursing," pleaded her parents. "Work for a microfinance firm," instructed her teachers. "Avoid the nonprofit field," advised her mentors.
"People want to guide you because they think they know you and want to help," she says. "But I wanted more after high school than to go through college with a strict trajectory."
Now a successful Chicago businesswoman at Fifth Third Bank, Addo, a 2012 graduate, remains grateful she came to Xavier as an "Exploratory" student. Her decision to keep an open mind led her on an important path of personal discovery.
As a high-school student from the Cincinnati area, Addo had always had her eye on Xavier for college. When she visited for the first time, she not only felt at home, she also understood the holistic sense of educating people.
"They weren't just selling me on academics. They were selling me on being a good human being," she says.
Addo knew Xavier was a place where she could grow, and she liked the idea of taking time to figure out what she wanted in a career.
"It's not at all a problem to come in with a plan," she says. "Especially if you're passionate about it. But when you have multiple interests, it's always better to enter the situation with your options open."
Addo started at Xavier as a freshman in 2008. Despite her growing interest in numbers and business, she took a variety of core classes her first semester. She appreciated the small class sizes, where she had, on average, 16 classmates per course. The professors knew her by name and knew her story.
For example, her microeconomics professor, Amit Sen, worked with Addo one-on-one, guiding her and instructing her on the right questions to ask herself. She soon realized that economics was the right fit for her.
"A little bit of everything I want to do is in econ," she says. "Development, finance...there are so many things you can do with it in 'real life.'"
Economics became the niche that Addo needed. And not only did her courses help her make this decision, so did the extracurricular opportunities she had outside the classroom. Addo became more involved in the Williams College of Business, and started a student group called Xavier Women in Business. She enjoyed being around like-minded people whose similar passions helped cement hers.
In her sophomore year, Addo declared her business major in Economics.
Then, during her junior year, because of an extra credit opportunity, Addo ended up speaking with a representative from Fifth Third Bank who was interviewing for their summer leadership program. Addo was invited to intern with them. She did and by the end of the summer, she had a job lined up after graduation.
Now, Addo is an employee relations consultant managing teams and working to develop individuals. She completed her Master of Science in Human Resource Development at Xavier in 2015 to improve her capacity to understand employees' needs.
"I deal directly with people and helping them get to the next level in whatever that might be," she says. "I get to do what I love in so many different ways."
Addo uses her economics degree and its ties to sustainability, along with the skills she learned in her Human Resource Development program, when working to develop Fifth Third employees for the longterm.
Thinking back to high school, Addo is thankful she kept an open mind as she entered college and encourages others in similar situations to do the same.
"You never know yourself until you actually put away time to get to know yourself," she advises. "No one should feel inadequate for not knowing. College is a place for you to build. True success comes from discovering what your passions and talents are."