When Olubukola Akinbami was evaluating colleges, she sought an option that had benefits like a good program for veterans, a solid presence of veterans on campus, and cognitive science – her preferred area of study – available as a major. The University of Michigan checked these boxes. “[I was] definitely excited about the veteran presence, because I didn’t want to go to such a big school but not have people who I could relate to,” Akinbami says.
Akinbami calls Atlanta her hometown, but graduated from high school in Houston. After high school, Akinbami enlisted in the U.S. Army, went through basic training in Missouri, and then got her first job in the military as a geospatial engineer in New York. A deployment to Qatar followed before Akinbami returned to the U.S. to begin her college career at the University of Michigan. (She is still active in the National Guard and drills with a unit in nearby Ypsilanti, as well.)
Once Akinbami got to campus, she found community and support through a few different avenues: joining Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE), working as a student fundraiser at Michigan Telefund, and meeting with an academic advisor and professors during office hours.
The initial move to campus brought a series of challenges, whether that was adjusting to a new state, getting used to being a student, making new friends, being on her own, or dealing with impostor syndrome. But a game night with PAVE helped finally break the ice: “That was the first time since coming here that I felt like I actually could belong here … that there was room for growth and for fostering new relationships, so I really appreciated PAVE for that.”
Her time with PAVE has created fond memories at U-M, attending hockey games, haunted houses, dinners, and birthday celebrations with peers. When she got the chance to pay it forward, she became a PAVE advisor to help foster the next cohort of veterans on campus.
In terms of on-campus work, Michigan Telefund helped Akinbami broaden her horizons by talking to alumni who are in similar fields as her career interests, like psychologists, researchers, or social workers. “You get to talk to alumni from so many different classes, and they have so many different experiences,” Akinbami says.
And academically, Akinbami found support in her academic advisor, Liese Hull, in the Comprehensive Studies Program, as well as her professors in the Psychology Department. She credits office hours with Professor Malley and Professor Lee as especially helpful, with the latter “encouraging that you do know the material, you just have to be confident in what you know.”
Her advice to potential future veterans who are applying or entering U-M? “There are always people who are trying to help you,” Akinbami says. “Asking for help is the most important thing because you’re not by yourself.”
Outside of her involvement on campus, Akinbami enjoys exploring all that the city of Ann Arbor has to offer, whether it’s window shopping downtown or exploring Kerrytown’s farmers market and shops.
Looking to the future, Akinbami isn’t fully decided, but is weighing everything from a return to the military to possibly pursuing a career related to her degree program.
“The end of this chapter for undergrad or for U-M and the beginning of a new one … the possibilities are endless,” Akinbami says.
Akinbami will graduate from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 2026.
Learn more about veterans on campus at the U-M Veteran and Military Service website.