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James Dougherty, GABELLI ’22: Jumpstarting Accounting Career With Two Degrees in Four Years

Graduate | May 27, 2022 |

When James Dougherty was a sophomore in the Gabelli School and unsure of what he wanted to major in, he took a class with Barbara Porco, clinical professor and associate dean of graduate studies.

“Dr. Porco told me that she loves accounting because there’s always a right answer—it’s the only discipline in business that has an answer that you can get to at the end of the day,” Dougherty said, adding that that’s what drew him to the field.

With Porco’s help, Dougherty threw himself into accounting, getting his undergraduate degree in December 2021, followed by his master’s in professional taxation in May 2022—fully completing two degrees in four years.

Dougherty, who’s originally from right outside Philadelphia, said he was able to make it happen thanks to some pre-college credits, summer courses, and relationships with faculty like Porco and the dean’s office. He was able to take five master-level courses as an undergraduate student, which enabled him to have just one full-time semester as a graduate student. 

For Dougherty, juggling a lot of work has always been a part of his life. He worked three jobs in high school, including as a janitor at his school, to save up some spending money for college, and continued working at Fordham as Ram Van driver in addition to his internships.

Once he decided he wanted to pursue accounting, this desire to do as much as possible carried over to his academics.

“The faculty have always been great, and willing to work with me,” he said. “I think I drove some of them up a wall at times—I was asking for a lot—but they were really helpful and they were totally understanding that [getting these degrees]was something that I wanted to do.”

Porco said Dougherty’s success is due in part to his clear vision.

“Planning is key—students need to have the plan, and the earlier you have that vision, then you have more capacity to be supported and guided,” she said. “I had him first semester sophomore year. I had some guest speakers. He was inspired by some of the things that he was learning. I was launching a ‘wintership’ program. [A winter internship program which Porco defined as “a win for the firms, and a win for students.”] And he was one of my first participants in the program—all of that early planning is part of what I think creates the success.”

Porco emphasized that Dougherty’s confidence and consideration of others played a role in his achievements.

“He’s a strategic thinker, he is mature, responsible, articulate, amiable—very considerate of others, very eager to help other people,” she said. ”He’s assertive, he’s confident, but there’s a humility there, and I think it’s a striking balance.”

As part of the winternship program, Dougherty worked at KPMG as a student. He also completed internships at Ernst and Young and Buchbinder Tunick.

“I was working full-time at KPMG, and I was able to take a full semester worth of classes, so that was a really cool opportunity that not many students get—it’s kind of a unique situation to Fordham because we’re in New York City,” he said.

Because of his dedication to his schoolwork and internships, Dougherty, who just finished his CPA exam, will be starting a full-time role as an associate at KPMG in their mergers and acquisitions tax department in November. Before that, he’s squeezing in one more internship this summer at CBS with their Paramount Global division in their tax accounting department.

As much as he loves New York, Dougherty also credits Fordham’s Global Outreach program to Kolkata, India, with expanding his perspective and contributing to his success. Dougherty said that he came across the Global Outreach table at the club fair and talked with students there about the trip next semester to India.

“Global Outreach was probably my favorite experience in my four years of Fordham,” he said. “I was the only one that was a freshman, and it was an experience especially outside of my comfort zone. It was just a really powerful experience.”

Dougherty said some of the most vivid memories from the trip included a visit to the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity to learn about Mother Teresa’s work and her impact in the area. The group also spent time with college students from India.

“We got to meet students at a university in India—St. Xavier’s, Kolkata—and that was a really cool part of my Fordham experience, meeting people who are in my same position, just on the other side of the world,” he said.

Dougherty said that the trip allowed him to see things from a different, more global perspective, something that he put into his work at Fordham.

In addition, Dougherty said he felt connected to the Gabelli School’s “business with a purpose” mantra, something he was able to put into action through a former club called Social Innovation 360, which encouraged first-year students to start a business and approach business problems creatively.

“It was to encourage social innovation and try to promote more sustainable versions of business,” he said”

Dougherty said he plans to carry that mission with him as he moves forward in his career, along with a message he took from Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, and the William J. Loschert Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Gabelli School of Business, Professor Benjamin Cole, whom Dougherty took two classes with, including a blockchain course his senior year.

“Father McShane always tells students that they’re going to leave Fordham bothered by the injustice of the world and determined to fix it,” he said. “I’ve kind of experienced that same thing with being in [Cole’s] class. He challenges you to think about the broader implications of things—it’s not just about, ‘how can I make money?’ but also, ‘what’s really going on in this crazy world that we live in?’”

Originally shared on Fordham News.

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