Akinola’s Journey To Western

Electrical Engineer Technician instructor Akinola Babatunde’s journey to Western spans four decades, three continents, and three academic degrees. And for his family of three, settling into the La Crosse region in Wisconsin has been a tremendous and rewarding decision so far.

Akinola grew up in Nigeria – the most populous country in Africa and the sixth most populous in the world. His mother died when he was just three years old. When he was eight, his father died. At nine, he moved in with an aunt, Maria Folayan, – a person whom he refers to as his mother, father, and “everything else he needed in one.”

At first, Akinola struggled in high school – particularly mathematics. He often felt it was his teacher’s fault. But at one point, he had an epiphany – one that shaped his life forever.  

“I said to myself: my teachers are not solely responsible for my success,” he said. “Their duty is to teach me. My job is to learn.”

With a change in perspective, Akinola began doing great things. He went to college in Nigeria, graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree at Unilorin. Later, he took several positions at two banks. But in the end, however, he knew he wanted to give back to the next generation. He knew he wanted to be a teacher.

Akinola eventually found himself in Cyprus, an island just south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea. There, he completed his master’s degree and PhD in Energy Systems Engineering at CIU, with first class results and quality research publications. He also went on to work in three Universities in Europe for ten years.

Later, Akinola began searching for teaching positions in the United States. That’s when he found an Electrical Engineering Technician instructor position at Western, or as he says, “Western found me.”

“The rest is history,” he said with a smile.

Although the Wisconsin winter may chase others away, Akinola and his family embraced it, finding the natural scenery of the Driftless Region as “beautiful.” But after one of the mildest winters on record, Akinola simply strikes his first winter in the region up to luck.

“The weather is…(pause) What I’ve seen is not beyond what I can handle,” he says with a smirk. “What I tell people is that I brought the warmth to La Crosse.”

Akinola is a firm believer in God. As such, he believes that everyone can be successful, no matter what. He often speaks to individuals he knows from around the world with this message. A change in mindset can help individuals reach their full potential, he believes. Responsibility to yourself and others is key.

“Do your best. Don’t leave the rest. Stick with your best and make sure it is good enough,” is a motto he shares regularly.

Throughout this life, Akinola has had a passion for speaking to inspire. In his free time, he can be found speaking to groups from Nigeria, Cyprus, United States, African and Asian countries, empowering young minds and teaching the next generation. It’s these trademarks that make Akinola a unique gift to Western campus community.

Akinola and his wife have put down roots in the region. His wife, Abisola, now works at Western. They live together in the La Crosse region with their son.