For Amela Redzepagic, St. Francis College is a family affair. She is one of three sisters who chose to enroll at SFC.
A 2016 graduate of Forest Hills High School in Queens, Amela and her family moved throughout New York City many times in her youth, eventually landing in Washington Heights, Manhattan where she lives today. She entered St. Francis College thinking, like her sisters, that she'd complete the College's nursing program.
Instead, Amela found her home in accounting.
Taking six classes every semester allowed Amela to complete the five-year BS/MS accounting program in just four-and-a-half years. She will earn her degree this winter. "I had to prioritize my time management," Amela said of her aggressive course load, which she took on while also completing three internships. "I didn't just want to finish early. I wanted to finish strong."
Amela has accepted a full-time job offer with Geller Advisors LLC, and will be a tax associate there beginning this month. She interned with the company during her final year at SFC. Amela has ambitious plans for her career, intending to become a manager or director as well as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). She will start studying for the CPA exams in the coming months.
Amela recently reflected on time at St. Francis College and what is next for her.
How did you decide to attend St. Francis College?
My high school was huge, over 4,000 students. I wanted to go to a smaller college.
I have two siblings, and we all ended up going to St. Francis College. My older sister Sabina was there for two and a half years already when I was applying. She was always talking about how she enjoyed it, how you get one-on-one attention from professors. I really wanted that, because I didn't have that in high school.
Sabina graduated from the nursing program. My younger sister's in nursing now and is going to graduate from SFC this spring. St. Francis is a family thing. This is the college for our family.
With two sisters in nursing, how did you land on accounting?
I actually came to St. Francis with the intention of becoming a nurse, but I realized after a year that that profession was not right for me. I switched into business first. And then I took my first accounting course with Professor [Danielle] DiMeglio. She felt that I had a real knack for the subject. She guided me to find my career. I credit her with my success and accomplishments.
What misconceptions did you have about accounting before you started studying it?
I thought it was all about numbers. I thought it was boring. It's definitely not those things. It changes every day.
I really appreciate that accounting offers me professional stability. That's one reason I was drawn in.
Was there something specific during your time at SFC that contributed to your success?
What really pushed me was my intermediate accounting class. Any accounting student will tell you, that's the one that will allow you to go forward or will break you and you'll choose something else [to study]. My professor there, Professor [Louis] D'Elia, really kept pushing us to keep studying and not give up. That class was pivotal.
You served as treasurer of the Accounting Society. What role did the Society play in your SFC experience?
It was big. When I first switched over to accounting, I had no understanding of the profession. I didn't know what the Big Four was [note: the Big Four is the world's four largest accounting firms: EY, KMPG, PwC and Deloitte]. Being part of the club helped me not only learn how to work with people, but I met a lot of big names in the industry, including from those Big Four companies. I took away information that I need for my career now.
Your three internships also contributed to your success. How did those come about?
Professor D'Elia helped me get my first two internships, with Amex and then with National Grid. The third one with Geller Advisors came through Professor [John] Lombardo.
What did you take away from those experiences?
My Amex internship was my first real professional experience. It helped me understand that the professional environment is different than being with my friends or in a classroom. You have to present yourself differently. I had to learn how to build work relationships in those settings.
You're starting your full-time job this month. What are you doing?
I'm a tax associate. I'll have my own set of clients and will be preparing their tax returns, doing tax planning for them. Just working with clients on whatever they need related to their taxes.
I chose to go into tax because it's always changing, and I find that fascinating. I like trying to figure out how clients can get the most out of current tax policies. It's like a puzzle.
What are your parting words to St. Francis College?
It's bittersweet. I'm glad to not have classes anymore, but I'm sad to be leaving it behind. I'm forever grateful to St. Francis College. I've had the most wonderful four-and-a-half years. I came here not knowing my career path, but my professors helped me flesh out what I wanted to do. They gave me the guidance and assistance I needed. I give them all the credit. Even though I'm leaving SFC, I developed lifelong friendships and I'm so grateful for that.