University News

Patrice Achu selected as UW-Whitewater 2023 winter commencement student speaker

December 01, 2023

Written by Chris Lindeke | Photos by Nick Pook, Eddie Gergets and submitted

Patrice Achu’s journey across the stage at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s December commencement to receive his Doctor of Business Administration will be a short, straight walk — a stark contrast to the long, winding path he took to get to this point.

Achu, who was selected as commencement student speaker and will address his fellow graduates at the ceremony on Dec. 16 in Kachel Fieldhouse, will receive his third degree from UW-Whitewater, completing an educational path that includes a BBA in accounting in 2010 and an MBA in project management in 2020. He joins May 2023 graduate Eric Barber as one of two Warhawks in the school’s history to earn a DBA and two other degrees from UW-Whitewater.

A native of Bamenda, Cameroon, Achu was alerted to UW-Whitewater by a friend who he attended high school with. Supported by his family, a scholarship package and a desire to study accounting in the United States, Achu traveled to Wisconsin from Africa in August 2006.

“In Africa, getting a Visa to come to the U.S. is like winning the lottery,” Achu said. “They probably grant one Visa per maybe 100 applicants, if that … so it was a blessing. Once I got the opportunity, even though I didn’t have all the money, it was like leaving without looking back.”

Profile picture of Patrice Achu.

Achu started his Warhawk journey as a freshman at Fricker Hall with not even a semester’s worth of tuition in his pocket and a challenge to learn and adapt to a new culture.

“I saw my first snow and was excited at first, but then it started settling in,” Achu said. “I started to miss my family a lot. The support that I got from everyone on campus – my professors, my friends and everyone – was just amazing. I thought I was going to transfer out of UW-Whitewater after one semester or one year, but I never did. I ended up just staying and never left Wisconsin.”

He landed his first campus job at Esker Dining Hall. He was a resident assistant as a sophomore at Tutt Hall and held numerous other part-time jobs during his career to help pay for college. He was also a member of UW-Whitewater’s Gospel Choir and held leadership positions in the campus chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, the university’s Global Ambassadors and the College of Business and Economics’ Dean’s Advisory Council.

Patrice Achu speaks with a person wearing graduation Regalia.

“The experience wasn’t just about learning accounting, it was holistic,” Achu said. “That environment was very rich in helping me get those skills, which helped me in my career as I joined the workforce.”

Since February 2019, Achu has worked for Kerry Group, a public food company headquartered in Ireland. After leading the North America internal audit program and being responsible for delivering on all aspects of the audit plan as senior internal audit manager, he was recently promoted to controller.

Pictured, right: UW-Whitewater CoBE DBA Cohort 7 member Patrice Achu talks with other hooding ceremony attendees after the ceremony. UW-Whitewater’s College of Business and Economics hosted a Master's Hooding Ceremony for Masters degree candidates in six different programs from the college. The 2023 ceremony took place on Friday, May 12, in Timmerman Auditorium inside Hyland Hall. (UW-Whitewater photo/Eddie Gergets)

Upon earning his bachelor’s degree, Achu worked as a summer audit intern at Ernst & Young, one of the “Big 4” accounting firms, which are the largest accounting professional services networks in the world. He followed the internship by working as a statutory accountant for UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota, before returning to EY where he worked in the assurance practice of the firm’s Milwaukee office from 2011-17, rising to the level of audit manager during that time frame.

“Back then, companies were not hiring,” Achu said. “It was just me and one other student at UW-Whitewater who got that job (at EY). That changed my life forever.”

Achu then worked as an Internal Audit Manager for Rexnard Corporation until January 2019, when he accepted his current role at Kerry Group.

An active community member, Achu volunteers his time with the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. He previously served as Vice President on the organization’s executive board, where he assisted minority students in Milwaukee Public Schools to choose and pursue a college degree in accounting or finance through the Young Entrepreneurial Scholars (YES) program.

Achu is committed to the mentorship of accounting students from UW-Whitewater and all other institutions of higher education. He is currently registered on campus as a mentor to accounting students.

“Giving back to the community is rewarding to me,” Achu said. “The accounting profession includes very few minorities who pursue this profession. I am working to encourage more people of color to pursue a profession in accounting. It’s rewarding to me when I see a few succeeding as a result of my coaching and mentorship.”


Patrice Achu defends his dissertation in front of a crowd.

Patrice Achu (DBA Cohort 7) defended his dissertation on Aug. 25, 2023, in the Anchor Bank Lecture Hall in Hyland Hall. (UW-Whitewater photo/Nick Pook)


UW-Whitewater’s Doctorate of Business Administration is a practitioner-oriented degree with a curriculum focused on integrating business functions such as accounting, finance, management, marketing and information technology. The DBA degree can meet the needs of those who want to advance their careers or go into teaching or consulting.

UW-Whitewater Is home to one of only a handful of Doctorate of Business Administration programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in the country. Accepted students must have at least six years of professional work experience and an MBA or related degree.

Achu isn’t ruling out a career move into academia – one of the many reasons for his choice to pursue his DBA and cap a trilogy of excursions to degrees at UW-Whitewater.

He said the lessons learned in the program are already paying off professionally.

“I would say the doctorate program exceeded my expectations,” Achu said. “It’s a very, very rigorous program. They challenge you to think and be critical of everything, analyze everything. The ability to do research is important as well, and to analyze data.

“I think the skills that I’ve gotten from that program would certainly show through my performance at work. Exceeding expectations in my performance reviews the past couple of years is a good testament to that education, skills and experience that I obtained through the programs at UW-Whitewater.”


From left, Jodi Gissel, dissertation committee chair, Patrice Achu, and Jimmy Peltier, dissertation committee second chair, after Achu successfully defended his dissertation on Aug. 25, 2023, in the Anchor Bank Lecture Hall in Hyland Hall. (UW-Whitewater photo/Nick Pook)


Achu looks back fondly on his time at UW-Whitewater as he builds on an already successful personal and professional career.

“In my entire time on campus, there never was a moment where I felt I was treated differently than anyone else,” he said. “I would say that it was not just one moment where I felt a sense of belonging — it was every moment I felt I belonged there on campus.”

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