My name is Aba Ackun and I graduated from Ashesi in 2006. I am also a 2014 MBA graduate from University of Virginia’s Darden School of business. Prior to Darden, I spent 6 years after Ashesi working in leading multinational corporations that span the gold mining, financial services, and the inclusive financial services industries. I have worn safety gear and spent time with mining engineers, helping them to convert their technical plans into financial plans for capital expenditure. I have been a currency dealer, riding the highs and lows of the choppy financial markets in 2008. I have also been a part of a movement making $100 loans to micro-entrepreneurs and changing their lives through socially responsible lending. I have worked all over the West African Sub Region, Latin America, Haiti, and in the United States.
But at the core of all of this, I am simply a dressmaker‘s daughter. A person who came from a working class home where neither of my parents had gone to college. So given my station in life, when I finished high school, had Ashesi not been around, my only option would have been to attend any of the public universities whose falling standards had led many wealthy people to send their children abroad for college. Somehow my father heard about Ashesi from a friend who thought that they could offer scholarships to people like me. Thankfully, they accepted me, gave me financial aid, without which my enrollment would have been impossible, and gave me an educational experience that changed the course of my life forever.
I must admit that I found Ashesi daunting at first. For the first time in my life I was being required to think critically, and for a person who had made it up to this point mainly by memorizing and regurgitating material, it was challenging. For the first time, shy and timid little old me was required to speak up, and my opinion mattered. Where I once had no opinion, I developed them, and learned how to argue my case with facts, and critical thinking. My shyness and timidity gave way to boldness, first in my written work as I explored new ideas and then into speech as I learned to present my ideas in front of the entire class. By my final year, I had held a position in the first ever student government at Ashesi.
At Ashesi, my gender for the first time was not a hindrance to my progress as women were treated no differently than men. We were taught that discovering and solving problems was good and that challenging the status quo was acceptable. Ashesi taught me that mediocrity was not alright and my classmates and I were constantly sent out to find problems to solve.
The quality of education that I received at Ashesi was world class and I didn’t begin to fully realize its significance and worth until I entered the working world. Ashesi’s tenets– leadership, scholarship, and citizenship were always with me. I had to distinguish myself in these ways. With the insights I gained from Ashesi and from working in microfinance, I decided to go to business school to acquire the tools that would prepare me for my next experience.
I am excited to have graduated from Darden, and am eager to get some US work experience under my belt, and then head back home to Ghana to start my own venture, a Private Equity fund that invests in and grows manufacturing businesses across Africa. I know that I would not have gotten this far, learned so much, or grown so extensively without Ashesi, and I am thankful to the people here and abroad that made that possible.