Emily B. Kunchala joined the American Chemical Society as chief financial officer and treasurer on May 15, 2023 (ACS publishes C&EN). She succeeds Albert G. Horvath, who became CEO on Jan. 1. Kunchala previously worked at The Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY), KPMG, and PwC. She recently spoke with Sophie Rovner about her background and goals. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What attracted you to accounting?
My dad is also an accountant. Even when I was little, he talked to me about finances and budgeting. Then I took my first accounting class in college, and it just clicked.
▸ Hometown: Coxsackie, New York
▸ Credentials: BS, accounting, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1999; CPA, Massachusetts
▸ Your job before ACS: CFO and vice president, finance and administration, The Research Foundation for the State University of New York
What drew you to ACS?
I was at The Research Foundation for SUNY, where the mission and vision were similar to those of ACS. As I learned more about the society, I was very impressed with the people I encountered and their desire to further the mission of the organization.
I also belong to and volunteer for a member organization for accountants. I understand the value of getting together with peers in an organization and giving back to the next generation of professionals. So both things fit together very nicely.
What would you like to accomplish as CFO and treasurer?
I have big shoes to fill, with Al going on to be the CEO. I’m coming into a finance function that’s strong and operating well. I hope that I’ll continue to support the growth of the organization, while bringing new and innovative ways of doing our work. I have a strong background in enterprise risk management, internal audit, and internal controls, so these are areas where I feel I can add value.
Can you define those terms?
Enterprise risk management involves looking at the risks for the organization as a whole and thinking about the likelihood of those risks occurring and the related impact, and then using that assessment when talking about initiatives, goals, budgeting—everything that you have going on. Internal auditing involves looking at things internally from an independent perspective. You review processes and procedures so you can fix things either before they become a problem or before you’re reviewed externally.
What do you do in your time off?
I spend most of my free time with my husband, Suraj, and our twin 15-year-old daughters, Cora and Lucille. We love to be outdoors, so we hike with our dogs, travel, and ski. I also enjoy gardening and local history.
What are you proudest of in your career?
At The Research Foundation, I spent a lot of time working with SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s nanotechnology complex, which at that time was going through a financial crisis. With the campus, I helped the organization stabilize its finances, so that it had funding available to reinvest in the future of that industry. I feel like this contributed to the future of SUNY and New York State.
Sophie Rovner is a senior science writer at ACS.