The next time you count the change in your pocket, think of the people who earn their living literally making money.
Dr. Abiodun (Abi) Bakare, chief learning officer at the U.S. Mint, is responsible for helping 1,600 government employees do their jobs better at six locations across America. His drive to help people prosper is rooted in the volunteer work he began as a boy in his native Nigeria.
“I have a passion for caring for other people, for giving them the tap to head them in the right direction,” he says. “I derive joy when I see people who are happy doing what they want to do.”
Motivating others is a skill he honed at Wilmington University, where he earned his Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Jonathan Wilson, a classmate in Dr. Bakare’s cohort at WilmU, says his commitment to caring shined through in their studies together.
“Abi has a unique ability to bring people together, foster collaboration, and create an environment conducive to growth and innovation,” says Dr. Wilson. “His friendly and approach-able demeanor made him a trusted confidant and mentor to many of us.”
“Abi has a unique ability to bring people together, foster collaboration, and create an environment conducive to growth and innovation.” — Dr. Jonathan Wilson
As a teen, Dr. Bakare volunteered with the Red Cross and dreamed of becoming a physician. He soon learned he had a better head for business than science. But how to channel his acumen for organization into nurturing others?
Then it hit him. He would devote himself to keeping organizations healthy. In 2004, he earned his B.S. in Human Resources Management and Labor Relations at Lagos University, where he was active in student government and human rights advocacy. He then took a job as a fundraising officer for an international nonprofit group for orphans in West Africa and was one of only 70 young adults worldwide to be selected to attend a humanitarian conference at the United Nations in New York City.
He was immediately smitten by North America and its abundant opportunities for personal growth.
“I thought maybe I could start a new life here,” Dr. Bakare says. “It was such a welcoming culture.”
He briefly considered studying in Newfoundland, Canada — “but I was concerned that it is so cold,” he says. In 2011, he enrolled in Cheney University in Pennsylvania, earning a master’s in Public Administration. He got a job as a training and development manager for the City of Philadelphia, where he immediately launched a program to help employees earn their GEDs, their first step in moving up the ladder.
“They might have been cleaners, and they eventually moved up to careers in civil service,” he recalls.
His ideas for helping employees advance on their career paths soon attracted attention. In 2013, the City of Philadelphia agreed to pay his tuition in WilmU’s doctoral program to broaden his skills and knowledge base. But the commitment was still a stretch. His first child was only three months old, and he was working full-time.
Dr. Bakare says WilmU’s commitment to flexibility and empathy for the needs of career-minded adults helped him manage his schedule. His classes on campus were held 5–10 p.m. on Fridays, which meant he had to travel to Delaware from Philadelphia only one day a week.
“Wilmington U understands the practicality of working and going to school, which made all the difference in me achieving my goal,” he says.
“Wilmington U understands the practicality of working and going to school, which made all the difference in me achieving my goal.” — Dr. Abi Bakare
The relationships he formed in Ed.D. Cohort 24 provided an extra layer of support, with the added benefit of creating lifelong friendships.
“We still meet once a year. It was a wonderful group, a great group of professionals, people you want to be around forever,” Dr. Bakare says.
Dr. Tierra M. Pritchett recalls him as a motivated, engaged student intent on developing leadership skills.
“Dr. Bakare was one of my favorite classmates. He is a very ambitious and avid learner, always excited to gather more knowledge to share with others. He came into the program aware of this plan and ready to execute,” she says.
After earning his doctorate, he took his leadership skills to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Treasury before accepting his current role at the U.S. Mint. Dr. Bakare, who now lives with his wife and two children in suburban Washington, D.C., has met with human resources teams at mints in Denver, Philadelphia, and West Point, New York, to identify gaps in training. He also is exploring apprentice programs in manufacturing to ensure the government maintains a pipeline of talent to produce currency and military medals seamlessly.
He recently launched a monthly newsletter for employees, ensuring that manufacturing workers have access to the same information about professional growth opportunities as administrative employees.
“I want employees who are on the floor, who don’t get emails, to have this news about training, employee development, and competency,” he says.
“[Dr. Bakare] is a very ambitious and avid learner, always excited to gather more knowledge to share with others.”— Dr. Tierra M. Pritchett
The pandemic heightened the need to develop technology to assess the needs of workers and the effectiveness of training and other initiatives.
“Before COVID, I was like a school principal,” he says. “I would go to each floor, look in each classroom, and see how the learning programs were deploying. Now, we’re using the video experience to communicate more and more.”
His former classmate, Dr. Frank Ingraham, says Dr. Bakare embraced education as a collegial and collaborative experience that enriches others.
“He always contributed to each course and each class during our doctoral studies in a way that benefited each of his cohort colleagues,” says Dr. Ingraham. “Specifically, Abi would contribute meaningful content associated with the course materials and relate it to some aspects of his dynamic personal and professional life journey. Each cohort member grew as a result of Abi’s sharing and then translated the newly learned information in a way that was directly applicable in life.”
In his work, Dr. Bakare continues the WilmU tradition of taking lessons from the classroom and applying that knowledge directly to careers.
“I am a lifelong learner,” says Dr. Bakare. “Starting when I was a teenager, I wanted to empower people around me to learn how to do things — and now it is my life’s work.”
— Eileen Smith Dallabrida