Five Questions with Katie Thornsvard

Katie Thornsvard loves numbers, analysis and… dogs.

Name: Katie Thornsvard
Position: Assistant dean for finance, Finance Office
Time at the Gillings School: Almost nine

 

Katie (left) and her sister Karen pause for a selfie during a hiking and biking vacation in Colorado.

Katie (left) and her sister Karen pause for a selfie during a hiking and biking vacation in Colorado.

What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): You could consider me the chief financial officer for the School. I oversee Schoolwide financial reporting and act as the financial compliance officer, helping guide everyone in following UNC’s policies and procedures as well as the law. But really, I think of myself as a consultant. Anyone can come to me with questions about the right way to manage money-related issues. I also advise the School’s leadership on how we’re doing financially, which helps the dean decide if and when we can take on new initiatives.

My colleagues are what I love most about my job. I have never worked in a place where everyone so genuinely wants each other to succeed. Also, I adore numbers and analysis. Taking complex problems and digging into them makes me really happy. I actually don’t get to do that as often as I’d like in my role as assistant dean, but I do get to mentor my team so they can solve those puzzles. I also enjoy figuring out how much scholarship money we have each year and seeing our students use it to accomplish amazing things.

 

My first job ever: was working in my dad’s office. He’s a hematologist/oncologist, and I started helping him out the summer after my junior year of high school. I was saving up spending money for when I’d eventually go away to college. When the time came, though, I blew everything I’d earned in the first semester. (It turns out buying pizza for lots of people is a great way to make friends.) I had to make that phone call home to ask for more cash, and I got in a bit of trouble over it – I’m definitely better at managing money now!

 

Something most people don’t know about me: is that I was never supposed to walk. I was born with malformed hips and feet that were angled in. When the doctor told my parents I would never walk, they refused to accept it. At six months old, I was in casts. At six years old, I had surgery on both feet. I don’t remember any pain (which is amazing since the surgery involved breaking many bones in my feet), but I do remember liking to look at the huge goldfish in the hospital’s aquarium. Ultimately, I’m extremely grateful for modern medicine and even more grateful to my parents for taking a stand on my behalf.

On a lighter note, I love biking, and I once completed a century – that’s a 100-mile ride – on the eastern shore of Maryland. What else? As an army kid, I lived in Germany for three years. I also used to work with wolves in Indianapolis. At Battleground Wolf Park, I frequently volunteered to go into the puppy yard to observe and take notes on the new wolves’ behavior. They were so cute, but they nipped!

 

Katie loves her rescue dogs (L-R) Monkey, Peanut and Kasey.

Katie loves her rescue dogs (L-R) Monkey, Peanut and Kasey.

If I could wake up tomorrow with one new ability: I would want to be an expert dog trainer. Dogs are my passion, and a year and a half ago I actually adopted a dog that I found in the UNC Global parking deck! One morning, I was on my way in to meet with the dean when I spotted a little beagle-Chihuahua mix running around between the cars. I was so conflicted – I didn’t want to be late for a crucial meeting, but how can you leave an animal in need? I ended up grabbing him and carrying him right into my office, where everybody looked at me like I was crazy! I called Animal Control to come pick him up, made it to my meeting and then spent the next few days watching the shelter website obsessively. Eventually, I brought him home with me for good. His name is Peanut, and he and my other dogs – Monkey and Kasey – are all rescues. I’m absolutely dog crazy, if you can’t tell.

 

The best advice I ever received is:  Actually, I’m going to flip that question around and take this chance to share a PSA. We all work in public health, but we have to remember to take care of ourselves as well as others. Not long ago, I started having unusual symptoms – first I had recurring cramping in my legs, and then I started experiencing rapid heart rate and shortness of breath. I ignored all of it for weeks because I was busy. I finally went to an urgent care facility only because my mom was heading out of town for a vacation and I wanted to make sure I was healthy before my main support person left. As it turned out, a blood clot in my leg had broken into pieces and several clots had already traveled to my lungs. The doctors told me I was likely one day away from dying of complications. So please, practice what you preach!

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