WSII Welcomes Impact Research Associate Riya Jagdish Kadam

Wharton sophomore Linda Wu interviews Riya Jagdish Kadam, a new staff member at WSII.

After graduating from UCLA, Riya now uses her background in research to help collect and analyze data for WSII’s Impact Finance Database. She is excited about exploring Penn’s campus—but not so excited for the weather.

headshot of riya kadam standing in front of a wood door

What is your role at Wharton Social Impact Initiative?

Riya Kadam: I help with ongoing research projects at WSII, and in particular the Impact Finance Database. Right now, we are in the process of collecting more data, so I am on a lot of calls with fund managers. Now, we are going to start analyzing the data that we have to produce more academic research and research that is aimed towards practitioners in the field.

Why did you choose WSII?

RK: I was really excited about this opportunity because generating impact and revenue seem contradictory on the surface level, but they clearly are not; impact investing does a good job of showing how. Impact Finance Database is laying the groundwork on this topic, so it is exciting to be a part of enhancing the field and adding very valuable information. I also think a lot of these skills would be very helpful for me in the future for grad school, so it really ties everything together.

How does your background in political science, economics, and research influence you in this role and help you in your day-to-day tasks?

RK: I think the way that my major ties into the project and WSII in general is that, through my political science classes, I was introduced to a lot of concepts and exposed to the level of inequality that exists. This project shows how you can use finance and investments to help address those issues. My day-to-day includes collecting and analyzing data, and my economics courses, specifically, helped me prepare for what I do here.

What does social impact mean to you?

RK: Through a lot of my research projects and classes, I was exposed to the level of inequality that exists around the world. What social impact is and what it does is level the playing field in a way that creates positive change in someone’s life when the system hasn’t really supported them in getting that access.

How does WSII fit into your future goals?

RK: I’m getting a lot of research experience from the very get go; I am understanding how data collection and analysis work. I’m getting exposed to these topics before I even go on to graduate school. Learning about impact investing and getting exposed to this field is going to help me frame my interests in development policy and give me new perspectives on my research topic.

Okay, now for some Speed Round questions. What are you reading, watching, or listening to right now?

RK: Reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Watching Succession. Listening to WILLOW, Billie Eilish, and Taylor Swift’s Red.

What superpower would you want to have?

RK: Mind-reading.

When things open up, what is one place that’s on your travel bucket list?

RK: Bhutan.

What is the ideal outdoor temperature?

RK: I’ve lived in LA the past 4 years—so 75°F.

What is your Hogwarts House?

RK: Ravenclaw.

What’s for dinner today?

RK: Trader Joe’s shawarma chicken wrap.

What excites you about being a part of the Penn community and Philadelphia in general?

RK: To explore the Penn campus and its traditions, and explore a new city—I haven’t been to the east coast in like 5 years.