Swarna Swathi Badekila, GABELLI ’20: Accounting Grad Finds Confidence, Community, and Success
Accounting , Graduate Success Stories | May 11, 2020 | Gabelli School of Business
Earning a master’s degree in accounting was not in Swarna Swathi Badekila’s original plan when she moved to the United States from India in 2016. After marrying her high school sweetheart in her native city of Mysuru, she joined him here in the United States, where he was already working for the software company SAP America.
But after two years of living in Jersey City, she felt confident enough to enroll in graduate school at the Gabelli School of Business. When she graduates this month, she will be a very different person.
“The whole experience of Gabelli has been so enriching and so valuable to me, and has transformed me,” she said.
Accounting was a passion for her already; she had worked in the field for five years in India, but it took her a few years before she felt comfortable enough in her new home to consider pursuing it further.
“I thought I should definitely make use of this wonderful opportunity of living here in the U.S.,” she said, noting that three of the big four accounting firms are headquartered in New York City.
Badekila and her husband have made the most of living in the United States. In the four years since she moved here, they have visited 30 states, with stops at national parks like the Grand Canyon.
In addition to her studies, she founded the Gabelli School’s South Asian Business Association (SABA).
“I was very aware of how it feels to live far away from your family and friends,” said Badekila, who serves as the group’s president. “I was really very keen on this concept of building a community inside a bigger community and letting people meet each other and get people from their own countries to talk to each other.”
That community extends to prospective students as well. Badekila has worked with the Gabelli School’s admissions office to send personalized welcome e-mails to prospective Indian students who have been offered admission.
The SABA group organized a Diwali party for more than 150 people in the fall. It was also scheduled to present the first ever Global Asia Conference on March 26, featuring a keynote address from Viral Acharya, Ph.D., former deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India. The event was postponed when Fordham closed its campuses but is tentatively scheduled for next fall. It would have been a part of the Gabelli School’s centennial celebration, and it was expected to draw attendees from around the New York metropolitan area, so Badekila admits she was disappointed it was put on hold. It hasn’t been all for naught though.
“I was able to reach out to all these people in the field and build good relations with them as I was planning the conference. I was able to build my own leadership and people skills, so it was tremendously helpful,” she said.
As part of her studies, Badekila got first-hand experience in the world of New York accounting. She worked on KPMG’s professional practice research team—a project overseen by Barbara Porco, Ph.D., Bene Merenti Professor of Accounting and Taxation, that had Badekila researching fraud in investment banking and capital markets industries. She was also a lead volunteer in 2019 for the annual symposium sponsored by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), a nonprofit organization that sets sustainability accounting standards for the accounting industry.
She he was offered a position at EY that is tentatively scheduled to begin in October.
Badekila said her time at Fordham has expanding her horizons when it comes to the accounting field.
“Accountancy is something which I’ve been involved in the past several years, but I was not very familiar with classes like forensic accounting, sustainability research and reporting, or data analytics,” she said.
“These were really new topics to me, which I found really fascinating. I could never have imagined that these kinds of topics are a part of accounting.”
Porco said Badekila was always willing to invest enormous energy in projects she was asked to join.
“She approached each one of them with enthusiasm, professionalism, dedication, integrity, and in many ways, incomparable acumen,” she said.
“To me, she is the personification of the type of individual you would hope would be assigned to your team. We can teach students how to do journal entries, we can teach them how to do tax returns. You can’t teach attitude though, you just can’t. That’s what she brings— this inspiring, enthusiastic, contagious attitude. It engulfs everyone that works with her.”
Badekila credits people like Porco and Lonnie Kussin, assistant dean of advising and student engagement, with helping her adapt and thrive. She also said she’s grateful for her husband’s support, noting that he’s pushed her “into achieving more and dreaming bigger.”
“I come from really a very humble background. If I was still living in India, I wouldn’t have even thought of doing a master’s, but after living a couple of years here, my husband and I decided we just save enough for me to get a master’s here,” she said.
It was a gamble they decided to take together, and while there were times when she wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort, she’s confident now that it was the right move.
“I’m ready for anything,” she said.
Note: This story was originally published in the Fordham News and was republished here on GabelliConnect.