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Geoffrey Crawley '95, Vice president, Harris Private Bank


Why I chose sociology

''Why should I hire a sociologist for a financial services firm?'' Princeton helped me get into the door of every interview that I have had since graduation, but closing the deal during each interview has always been up to me and has included answering some form of this question. After a while, I began to love this question -- anticipating where and when an interviewer would ask it.

''As a sociologist, I understand how to objectively view the behavior of the majority of your clients. I have been trained to recognize differences in the behaviors of what the masses say and what they actually do. With a minor in economics, I can put this behavior into a financial context to better service, market, and develop relationships with your clients,'' was my typical response.

I decided to major in sociology because I adore everything about sociology. I went to a liberal arts school for exposure to new ideas, disciplines, and philosophies. During sophomore year, I took my first sociology class as a part of my core curriculum requirements. I walked into Sociology 101 with Professor Viviana Zelizer, who was wearing a cool, hip black leather skirt -- if my memory serves me correctly -- and a whole new world opened up to me. I remember her discussions about the social value of money, and how our spending habits change with how we obtain it. For instance, you may spend a $20 bill you find on the street faster than $20 you earned through a hard day's work.

Value to my career

Sociology came naturally to me as a discipline that was all about people watching. It allowed me to creatively observe my life, peers, and environment while scientifically researching my observations and their social implications. For instance, my first paper for Soc 101 was about the negative connotations lying has in our society, and how ''white'' lies were acceptable from politicians and even friends who lie to spare our feelings. My senior thesis was titled ''X Marks a Generation,'' and I detailed the myths attached to my generation, offering research that contrasted the prevalent stereotypes at that time.

When I graduated from Princeton in 1995, I went to work for Merrill Lynch. During my time at Merrill, I rotated through various areas of marketing and sales, from working with product launches of new client services to demographic work on where to most advantageously place a small-market office. Today, I am a vice president and client advisory officer for the Harris Private Bank based in Chicago. I profile and prioritize the needs of high-net-worth clients and introduce them to my team of wealth-management specialists to help them meet their financial objectives.

Overall, I appreciated majoring in a smaller department because it enabled me to expand my boundaries and take a fresh approach to my world. It also promoted strong interaction with faculty members. I know that sociology changed my world by enhancing my perception of it.

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