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Lindsay Guzowski’s M.A. ’04 graduate work in the department of sociology resulted in an unconventional outcome.

Guzowski’s path to her position as partner with Falcon, a firm that specializes in connecting private equity firms with top-notch talent, stemmed from her graduate work in sociology. Not something you hear every day about executives in business.

“It’s not that I knew I wasn’t interested in an academic path, but I discovered through grad school that there were ways to apply what I was learning to a path that would be more inspiring for me,” Guzowski said. “I wanted to ensure that if other students had that desire that they could pursue it. But on the flip side, there are those who think that teaching is the right path for them, but they don’t have the opportunity to get out into the real world and realize that they actually do like being a research professor. Giving people the opportunity to experience both sides of it early can help make better sociologists in the world.”

Thus she established the Lindsay Hirschfeld Guzowski Graduate Student Excellence Fund to support graduate students in the department of sociology who are pursuing careers outside of academia.

Guzowski learned early on in her graduate program—through an internship with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago—that she enjoyed business and being able to apply the thought processes and research methods from sociology to problems that are more economic in nature.

Her first job with an industrial supply company in Cleveland, Ohio, gave her the opportunity to apply the principles she had learned to work with and manage people from diverse backgrounds or who had different motivations. Throughout her career, Guzowski has drawn on her strong foundation in statistics and research to analyze data, allowing her to understand people’s behavior—internally within the company or externally with customers.

“I realized through all of this that I needed more business knowledge and that I wanted to be a part of helping to assess which companies were going to be a success in the long run, so I went to business school at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University,” she said.

While working toward her MBA, she did an internship with a private equity fund, and one of the reasons they were interested in her was because she had a different background and could analyze businesses from a different perspective. She worked with that firm until Falcon came calling. She had the opportunity to get in on the ground level at Falcon and be a part of building a growing company, and she has been there for seven-and-a-half years.

“It is fun to be a part of helping to shape who we bring in to help us grow our company,” Guzowski said. “I’ve felt strongly about bringing in people with sociology and social science backgrounds because the way you learn to think in those fields is very different than the way that people learn to think in more business- or professionally oriented undergraduate majors. That ability to understand different viewpoints, follow where the data is taking you and listen to what people are saying (and what they’re not saying), is a skill that just doesn’t really emerge in other disciplines.”

And now she wants to provide opportunities for others to gain the same opportunity.

“I want people to be able to do theses that will allow them to prove that they have the ability to go into business and still scratch that intellectual itch,” she said. “There are ways to apply sociological theory to things that might seem like business school projects and do so in a way that advances the literature.”

Guzowski credits her time and experiences at UNC with setting her on the path to where she is today.

She recalls a lunchtime colloquium session where a professor discussed his research on twins. She was inspired by how so much insight can be gleaned from a dataset.

“That has actually shaped where I have gone in life,” she said. “That told me that you can use numbers to make things work and make things better. Very formative.”

And although she took a less predictable route for a sociology graduate student, the impact of her experience was significant.

“I loved the learning and the program,” she said. “It made me a better thinker.”

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