Rugsit Kanan, '16
Schwarzman Scholars, First Cohort
Lazard Asset Management, 2017
The best word to describe Harvard’s sociology department is probably “dark horse”. Looking back, I was quite surprised how sociology played a major role in virtually all of my accomplishments both during Harvard and beyond. Logistically, the department gave the students fantastic support and I was able to interact with any staff or faculty member on a very personal level about all the ups and down in my academic, professional, or personal life. Academically, the discipline is quite flexible and allowed me to craft my own recipe of classes that best align with my academic and non-academic interests. I initially came in set on another concentration, but I was very glad I took the department’s invitation to explore sociology and was able to craft a successful Harvard career with sociology at its center.
Within sociology, I focused on organizational behavior and I often got to refer to the materials I learned from class in my extracurricular involvement. A lesson on incentive management from Sociology 25 Intro to Organizational Behavior and discussions on motivational stories that inspire action from Sociology 27 Intro to Social Movements translated directly into an effective leadership style I developed as I led Harvard Association for US-China Relations (HAUSCR) to be the college’s most impactful organization in China, influencing over 2,500 Chinese high school students annually.
When I interned in finance at Lazard Asset Management, I again benefited from my academic background. Sociology gave me the toolkits to look at an abstract social interaction and analyze the forces and patterns behind it. When I was researching stocks to pitch for my internship final project, I was able to generate insights that relate a company’s management style to its productivity or to use a socioeconomic and cultural context a company operates in to predict the effectiveness of that company’s business decisions. These unique insights I developed through my academic discipline allowed me to give the stock pitch that landed me a return offer at Lazard.
Even though I did not complete my senior thesis, sociology still had heavy influence on my senior year at Harvard. With the sociological lens that unveils hidden patterns in society in hand, I became hungry to learn more about the world. To better understand the unknown forces driving US-China relations, a topic of my interest, I joined in fall 2016 the inaugural cohort of Schwarzman Scholars. Already, I was able to use my sociology background to both enhance my learning experience at the program and to help this high-profile scholarship with $450 million endowment to set up its first student government.
I never expected that my decision to concentrate in sociology would leave such a lasting impact on me. I was glad I embraced that decision and rode the dark horse through the best Harvard experience I could have ever asked for.