‘Even in the Most Unexpected Situations, Babson Always Had My Back’

Babson has meant many things to Swapnika Yarlagadda ’19: a community, a family, a foundation, and an inspiration. As the undergraduate Commencement speaker for the class of 2019, she summed up the College’s uniqueness in one item: a Babson sweatshirt.

Said sweatshirt was the key to flying back to Boston after being stranded in London. When Yarlagadda’s flight was canceled and attempts at rescheduling proved frustrating, a Babson alum spotted the sweatshirt and helped her find another flight back.

“Even in the most unexpected situations,” she said, “Babson always had my back.”

Finding a Sense of Community

Yarlagadda, an honors student who graduated magna cum laude, spoke to a spirited crowd at Babson’s undergraduate Centennial Commencement event. A cool breeze blew through the tent on the sun-drenched athletic field where students, family, friends, and Babson faculty and staff gathered for two hours of ceremonies.

Yarlagadda said that as an international student from Hyderabad, India, she was able to find a sense of community at Babson, “from peers and professors who pushed me to my limits, to being a part of something bigger than myself.”

She talked about how the College allowed her to be true to her values and her culture, while also getting to know people whose backgrounds were vastly different from her own: “As I look back at my Babson journey, it is filled with years of learning, growth, and finding crucial parts of myself,” she said. “While graduation is bittersweet, I would like to encourage everyone to find strength in our community. We have created a family that’s beyond blood relation.”

Know Your Roots

She urged her peers to focus on two things: Know your roots, and be present while establishing relationships. “The reason we are here,” she said, “is because of the hard work and vision of multiple generations before us. We can only build a better future by honoring the foundations that have been laid for us.” Of her own roots, Yarlagadda said she comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and called her father “an innovative thinker” for his pioneering ideas.

To emphasize the importance of meaningful relationships, she took the audience back to that auspicious day in the airport. “If that Babson alum didn’t care to strike a conversation,” she said, “who knows how much longer I would’ve been stranded at that airport?”

After the speech, Yarlagadda reflected on why she decided to focus on the strength of the Babson community. “There were so many threads that defined my Babson experience,” she said, “but it was easy for me to tie them together, because they always went back to community.”

In June, Yarlagadda will begin working at Wayfair as a profitability and strategy analyst. While her Babson education will no doubt serve her well, so will the confidence and support she takes with her. “Babson is your solace in a way,” she said. “There could be all this chaos in the world, and Babson is the anchor that holds you to the ground, that lets you see that anything is possible if you work hard for it. We feel so strongly connected, even in the toughest times.”

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