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
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!
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!