With a fascination for government, a passion for helping others, hard work and her nearly two-decade career in finance, Bola Kushimo ('09 M.P.A.) earned the prestigious Rising Star award from Bond Buyer, the nation's leading finance publication.
As a Rising Star, Kushimo joins the ranks of other professionals like herself, who she says are "impressive people pursuing their passion." She regards them as individuals "who have a high commitment to their work and industry."
The Nigerian native shows her commitment by helping the local Texas government, her organization Moody's Investor Service, and the male youth of Nigeria by funding the J. B. Kushimo scholarship with her husband. The annual award, given to deserving students from the Institute for Industrial Technology in Lagos, Nigeria, aims to aid students' career aspirations by helping with job placement upon graduation.
"Our efforts in Nigeria were born out of a desire to give back to our birth country, and the scholarship is one of the ways we do that," she says. "Our view is access to education and job training is a viable path to securing a self-sufficient future."
She also volunteers at her church, specifically with women who are victims of domestic violence and volunteers with organizations to help the homeless with their transition to secure a new home. Her efforts include helping abused women find a job to discourage them from returning to their previous domestic situation.
"I want to help someone overcome dependency on another person," she says. "Dignity and self-worth come from the independence of others."
Kushimo's initial career aspiration was to become a doctor -- as an undergraduate, she earned a bachelor's in psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington. After volunteering at a medical center in Arlington, Kushimo realized the medical field was not her path and chose to pursue her master's in public administration at UNT to make a difference in communities and local government.
"UNT was one of the top 10 schools in the country for public administration," she says. "I wasn't familiar with UNT, but the program was rigorous and that intrigued me."
During her time at UNT, Kushimo balanced a full-time job at GM Financial while pursuing her degree. She connected with her peers and built relationships in the classroom. Her experience with the entire public administration team was "amazing," she says, and the amount of support she received was unmatched. Faculty who contributed to her growth and development included Bob Bland, endowed professor of local government, and Lisa Dicke, interim chair of social work and a professor of public administration.
"Dr. Dicke was exceptional," she says. "Her classes were thought-provoking and forced you to dig deep. I always walked away feeling more empowered. And Dr. Bland always made himself available to talk through any issue and helped to aid in the next step after graduation."
Kushimo learned of a job opportunity at Moody's through one of her classmates and had the opportunity to speak to Gera McGuire ('04, '06 M.P.A.), an alum at the company to discuss the culture and atmosphere, which enticed her to apply. She began her career with Moody's as an associate analyst and worked her way up to vice president senior analyst.
"Hard work always pays off," says Kushimo, whose current role involves reassessing credit risk for local government. "That could be long nights or taking projects that might be difficult. I put in the work and let it speak for itself while being a good team player and operating at a very high integrity level."
Kushimo loves her work, but says a challenge in her industry is attracting younger people to finance. She participates in these efforts as a board member of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts and as a member of the constituent organization, the Southern Municipal Finance Society. Kushimo is active in meeting with students in a casual environment where coffee and breakfast break the ice for students to ask questions, and she attends career fairs at local universities with the goal of helping students understand what career paths are available in finance.
"I hope to mentor young people by helping them succeed and achieve their own goals," she says. "It is satisfying to see everyone succeed."