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Get to Know: Akua Akyea, Assistant Dean of Career Services

Akua Akyea

The following Q&A is featured on Iowa Now:

The rundown

  • Department: UI College of Law
  • Job title: Assistant Dean of Career Services
  • Hometown: Accra, Ghana. I was there for 18 months. My father was a UN diplomat and we moved and lived in Europe, East and West Africa, and Canada.
  • At the UI since: July 2015
  • Previously: Associate director, Center for Public Interest Law (now Social Justice Initiatives), Columbia Law School; director, Public Interest, Yale Law School
  • Alma Mater: University of Iowa College of Law, J.D., 1997

Q: What do you do here?

A: I work in the Career Services Office, which means I work with students to develop their career plans and equip them with the tools to be successful in achieving their goals. We also do a great deal of educational programming and bring in attorneys, practitioners, and judges to make sure students are connected and get a sense of what it means to be an advocate out there in the world.
The rundown

Q: What motivated you to study law and become involved in the legal world?

A: My reason for going to law school is probably the reason why I’m very passionate about my job. I didn’t know why I wanted to go to law school, and I didn’t really understand what it meant at the time. I had taken a few classes with professors Matthew Nagle and Clar Baldus as an undergraduate, and it was just such an interesting experience. Afterward, professor Nagle said I should really try this law thing, and I did. I was very lucky that I ended up on a wonderful path but realized, in hindsight, that I did not have a real sense of what I wanted. Now, I really want to make sure students have thoughtful experiences while they are here.

Q: What do you like most about working in higher education?

A: The students. Did I mention the students? It’s all about the students. I love that they are idealistic, and they’re full of energy and ideas and goals and plans, and I love working with them to make as many of those plans as possible happen, or at least get them on a path that will get them there.

Q: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Did it pay off?

A: I think it was deciding to move to the East Coast. I remember packing my car with my brother, and we were like, “If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t go,” and that was it! I just started driving to New York, a city where I didn’t have friends or professional contacts. But it paid off—working at Columbia was a fantastic experience. I made wonderful friends, met incredible colleagues, and grew professionally.

Q: What do you like most about being back in Iowa City?

A: Given my journey, I like the fact that everything is both familiar and incredibly new—it gives me the opportunity to do new things. I’m not bound by anything, so that type of freedom is really great.

Q: What makes you passionate about what you do?

A: I think it’s possibilities. Having lived in a lot of different places, you realize that there isn’t one way to do anything. Everyone sort of finds their own path and their own sense of happiness and contentment. Every time a student sits in front of me, I love that all is possible. Figuring out what that is for them and where they can go with it—that’s kind of awesome, and it’s very, very fun. I like helping people realize they’re not bound by what they thought they could do. If you push a little bit, stretch a little bit, it’s kind of amazing what you can accomplish. I like encouraging students to step outside of their comfort zone.

Q: Name five of your favorite things.

  1. Traveling
  2. My Siberian huskies
  3. Making and sharing a great meal
  4. Having a really great conversation
  5. Vanilla chocolate chip ice cream!


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