Spirit of GCU residency bursts with Joy
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The first time LoriAnn Natsyn talked on the phone with Joy Patrick-Akpan, a bank operations manager from Lagos, Nigeria, who’s enrolled in the doctoral program at Grand Canyon University, she was impressed.
Then, after they chatted about once a month, she met her in person at the recent doctoral residency at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort.
“She’s so friendly, so nice, so refined,” said Natsyn, a GCU student services adviser. “I felt like a sack of potatoes next to her.”
What makes that even more amazing is that Patrick-Akpan’s daily schedule would leave most people feeling mashed. Just the 37-hour trip from Africa to Arizona alone would have been enough to send the average traveler into a jet-lagged frenzy, but Patrick-Akpan looked and acted as if her first trip to the United States was more like a walk in the park.
And you know what? Compared to the life she leads in Lagos, maybe that’s how it felt.
On workdays, the mother of four boys does her doctoral assignments from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., after she spends time with her kids and gets them off to bed.
After she got home from the bank between 9 and 10 p.m.
After she endured a three-hour commute home. Yes, three hours. With no traffic, it’s a half-hour drive.
After she worked all day with virtually no break in a high-stress job that got going around 7:30 a.m.
After she got up at 4:30 a.m. and left by no later than 6. Wait until 6:30 to leave, she said, and you’ll just be joining the gridlock.
How can the traffic be that bad? Check out this story and keep it in mind the next time the freeway is backed up for a few minutes.
“It’s a whole lot of things,” Patrick-Akpan said. “The roads are not wide enough, the population is so dense and the people are undisciplined. There are a lot of accidents, a lot of unnecessary jams. You find somebody doing crazy things because he just doesn’t obey the traffic regulations.”
The irony here is that Patrick-Akpan has had to show so much discipline in the way she maneuvers through life without any mishaps.
“She was one of those students who really stood out to me,” said Richard Thorne, her enrollment adviser. “It’s so refreshing to know someone who has the capacity to do it and has the passion as well — and it’s coupled with an award-winning personality.”
When there were the inevitable paperwork needs associated with her enrollment, Thorne said Patrick-Akpan took it upon herself to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, even following up with phone calls to make sure everything was in order. He went so far as to call her letter of intent “beautiful.”
GCU had what she needed
Patrick-Akpan got her master’s degree in human resources management and development from the University of Leicester, one of the oldest and most respected universities in Great Britain. She also has a master’s in business administration from Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in Nigeria, and she got her bachelor’s in education chemistry from the University of Nigeria Nsukka.
When she wanted to get her doctorate, she scoured the Internet until she came across GCU, which fulfilled both of her goals.
“I was looking for a university that would give me the quality of education that I desired, and I was looking for a university that I could afford,” she said. “I wanted an online program because I need to be home with my kids as much as I can. But (entirely) online universities are not looked upon favorably in Nigeria. I wanted a brick-and-mortar university with online degrees.”
Patrick-Akpan, who has worked for the bank since 2009, isn’t looking to turn her next degree into something that will benefit her career. Instead, she wants to use it to help other people. Her dissertation is titled, “The Relationship between Employee Empowerment and Customer Satisfaction in the Nigerian Banking Sector,” and she hopes to graduate in April 2017.
“Things in my country are not where they should be compared to international standards, and they’re looking at how to make things better in every little way they can,” she said. “You’re not going to change everything at the same time. I thought, ‘Why don’t I start something on my own and train people to appreciate the level of entry that you have in the workforce?’
“The working situation in Nigeria is not favorable to the people. The unemployment rate, the conditions — but the first thing is the knowledge. People do not understand that this is not what it should be. For me to be able to do that, I need to talk from a position of authority, and that requires more knowledge.”
‘Just one of those people’
Just as Thorne and Natsyn have been impressed with Patrick-Akpan’s work ethic, she has turned it into a mutual admiration society.
“The GCU support is really wonderful,” she said. “All the people I’ve had the good fortune to work with, they are very supportive. I could pick up the phone and call someone and say, ‘I am having this problem,’ and they get a solution to it. You are not placed on hold here, you are not asked to call back.
“The instructors on the GCU platform are really, really helpful. You can ask all kinds of silly questions and you get answers to your silly questions no matter how silly they are. That’s very helpful because sometimes you feel so isolated.”
That certainly is not the feeling she has during all those hours she sits on Lagos roads. There are many stories of doctoral learners who go to great lengths to finish the work, but it’s hard to imagine having to change lanes more than this.
“She’s just one of those people,” Thorne said.
Clearly, that’s no accident.
Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or [email protected]