Some people go to college because it will help them get a better job. Others go to college because their parents want them to. Isaac Amissah (BBA ’20, MS ’22) went to college because the head of the United Nations told him to.
Thirteen years ago, Isaac moved to New York from his home country of Ghana with the intention of pursuing higher education. But after landing a job at The Pierre, a high-end hotel across from Central Park, he decided juggling work and school would be too difficult, plus college classes were “expensive,” he says. Isaac was perfectly happy spending his days at The Pierre’s front desk, welcoming guests, escorting them to their rooms, and handling questions and complaints.
After several years in that position, one day Isaac’s manager told him a very special guest would be arriving soon: fellow Ghanaian Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations. Because Isaac’s middle name happens to be Kofi, his manager asked him to wear a special nametag that included his middle name.
“In Ghana, people are given names that indicate what day of the week they were born,” Isaac explains. “Kofi means I was born on a Friday.” When Annan arrived at check-in, His Excellency was delighted to see a young Ghanaian with the same name as himself, Isaac recalls. “I escorted him to his room and while we were riding the elevator, I gathered the courage to interact with him. We spoke for a few minutes, and he asked me, ‘Are you in school?’ When I said no, he said, ‘Go to school!’”
The advice didn’t take. Isaac continued working his front-desk job. Then, a couple of months later, the Secretary-General returned to The Pierre. Of course he remembered Isaac, and asked if the young man had visited any college campuses: “I told him I hadn’t, and he said, ‘Go to school!’ again. I can still hear how his voice sounded—it echoed in my mind.”
With that sage advice reverberating in his ears, Isaac decided to research colleges. Fortunately, some family members told him about Baruch College’s highly regarded accountancy program. He enrolled in Baruch and the Zicklin School, where he finished his BBA in 2020.
Isaac has certainly made up for lost time. Not only is he now enrolled in Zicklin’s MS in Accountancy program, but he’s completed several prestigious internships, including Harvard’s Summer Venture in Management, a weeklong program for college seniors from diverse backgrounds. He also interned at Deloitte, the New York City mayor’s office, and even the UN itself. (Alas, Secretary-General Annan had long since retired.)
Today he is a teaching assistant and a Graduate Student Ambassador at Zicklin, and is passionate about visiting hospital patients and helping the homeless and other unfortunate people. He hopes to use his Zicklin-gained skills in data analytics and cybersecurity to help companies reduce and even eradicate fraud.
“Kofi Annan helped me that day so many years ago, by insisting I pursue higher education,” Isaac says. “Now, I want to take what I’ve learned at Zicklin and use it to help other people.”