LatyeIn person you’d think Ibawolatei Iyegha is soft-spoken and studied, but her academic successes speak volumes. The spring 2017 recipient of the prestigious Samuel B. Barker award, named for UAB’s first graduate dean, Ibawolatei is the first Collat School of Business student to receive the award for her academic success in graduate studies.

And she’s only 20 years old.

“I’m very humbled to receive the award,” Ibawolatei, who goes by “Latei”, says. Latei also received the 2017 Dr. Jerry D. Young Memorial Dean’s award for her outstanding work in and out of the classroom. She was nominated for both awards by an awards committee comprised of faculty mentors and staff.

Dean Eric Jack was one of the committee members who nominated Latei for both awards. “Latei’s superior desire for knowledge has molded her into an exceptional scholar and has awarded her a plethora of opportunities that are sure to continue,” Jack wrote in her nomination statement. Jack has assisted Latei with letters of recommendation and mentorship throughout her time as a student.

Latei graduated last month with a Master of Accounting degree, having previously completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting’s degree in accounting at UAB. After a summer hiatus, Latei will begin work as an audit assistant with Deloitte in the fall.

Apart from her studies, the Prattville native was active with many student organizations within Collat. Latei served as the president of the UAB Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) as well as a member of the Collat Accounting Student Board, an organization recently created to focus on unity and engagement within the accounting major at the Collat School of Business.

Under Latei’s leadership as chapter president of NABA, the organization received the 2016 UAB President’s Diversity Champion Award, increased its membership and continued its successful partnership with United Way of Central Alabama to complete tax returns for low-earning families in central Alabama.

Latei was also the face you saw when you entered the Dean’s Office at the business school – a responsibility she took seriously. As Dean’s Office Student Assistant, Latei assisted staff and students with administrative tasks and processed payments on behalf of the school.

This spring, Latei interned with Arlington Family Offices, a Birmingham-based investment and wealth management firm, where she performed bookkeeping tasks including reconciliations, bill pay, and preparation of financial statements.

In addition to her extensive work experience, Latei maintained a 4.0 GPA in the Master of Accounting program. During her time as a student, she set an ambitious goal of passing all four sections of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and passed all four of them with a remarkable score of 90 for the audit section of the exam.

Beyond her academic success, Latei enjoys singing and wants to relearn the piano. She grew up with a piano in the house, so learning it feels comfortable, she says. She also enjoys spending time with her large family, which includes 12 siblings. The family recently established a monthly potluck. “We just started that this year,” she said with a laugh.

Her large family steered her to UAB, where she began an undergraduate career in accounting. “My family pushed me to apply for colleges in-state. There are a large number of business firms in Birmingham, so it made sense to me.”

Latei graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a 4.0 GPA in 2016. She was chosen as the Undergraduate Speaker at the August 2016 UAB Commencement.

Latei said that the Collat faculty — and her large family — were instrumental in pushing her to succeed.

“I’m very blessed with the success I’ve received.”