If you’ve taken any online courses from The Ohio Society of CPAs over the past two years, you have benefited from the expertise of Learning Developer Cynthia Agyeman, Ph.D.; if you’ve posed questions during one of these classes you probably have even interacted with her.
Agyeman celebrated Independence Day this week for the first time as a U.S. citizen. The Ghana native took her oath of citizenship on June 26 after more than a decade of studying and working in Ohio.
“I am excited to be a U.S. citizen,” Agyeman said. “What I love about the U.S. is the sense of patriotism, and the tradition. People recognize in themselves what it means to be an American, and they try to live up to that in their lives. That has always been interesting to me.”
That she is an American now is a bit of a surprise even to Agyeman. She grew up as an aspiring artist and a self-described tomboy, sixth of eight children, four of whom are girls. Though she dreamed of becoming a flight attendant, she didn’t have any particular notions about leaving Ghana, a country in Western Africa with an area roughly the size of Michigan. Agyeman was born in the capital, Accra, which is on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, however the family moved around the country frequently.
Her father, a banker, insisted that all his children pursue their education into college and beyond.
“In my family my dad is very education-conscious,” Agyeman said. “He would not let you think outside that box, and for him education always comes first.”
That often meant traveling outside Ghana. Some of Agyeman’s older siblings were born outside the country, and most moved after high school or college – she has one sibling in London, another in the Netherlands. But she was most influenced by her older sister, Lydia Blankson.
“She moved to Japan after she earned her undergraduate degree and studied economics,” she said. “After that she moved to Ohio to do research in education.”
Agyeman, who earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2003, was intrigued by what her sister told her about Ohio University.
“I get bored easily, and at that point I wanted something outside art,” she said. So she traveled to Athens and earned, first, her Master of Arts degree in arts and international affairs, then her Ph.D. in instructional technology.
During this time – thousands of miles from the country they both called home – she met her husband, Akwasi, Ph.D., MA, a research analyst at The Ohio State University. Their daughter, Nana Yaa – a U.S. citizen by birth – was born in 2009. Since then their immigration status was a source of concern.
“During my masters study I was on a student visa, and before I earned my Ph.D. I had to reapply for reinstatement,” she said. “It was a hassle. People would tend to have to travel back to Ghana and go through the process again to get their visa.”
And though she loves her country of birth, the economic challenges there combined with deepening roots in Ohio and her family’s comfort level with settling abroad make U.S. citizenship their best choice. Her husband hopes to complete the process later this year.
Her thirst for new experiences and knowledge brought Agyeman to OSCPA in 2016.
“I have a teaching background and – again – I was bored with it,” she said. “So, I wanted to focus on places that are more administrative, and I wanted to learn something new when it comes to instructional technology.”
She said though she has learned a lot through her exposure to the accounting profession, her focus is still on the students.
“I always think about the learner – always, always, always,” Agyeman said. “We are always thinking, ‘Is this material going to benefit them in some way?’ and ‘Is it worth the money they are paying?’ We always want to make it a quality learning process for our audiences.”
PHOTO: OSCPA Learning Developer Cynthia Agyeman, Ph.D., is joined by her daughter Nana Yaa, 8, June 26 during U.S. naturalization ceremonies.