Zgurich’s Turning Point Leads Her to Cornell

Posted: Friday, July 28th 2017 at 2:58 PM

What do degrees in business management, German, philosophy, a minor in ancient Greek, and Warren Buffett all have in common? Brianna Zgurich.

Leveraging opportunities achieved through hard work and diligence, Brianna Zgurich is heading to Cornell University for their Ancient Philosophy PhD program.  To hear her story, it would seem that Zgurich calculated every step, moves ahead, as one might in a chess game, and yet she remained open to options throughout her studies at NAU. Which leads to the Warren Buffett connection.

Zgurich was selected to visit Warren Buffett in Omaha, Nebraska during October 2015 in her junior year. She participated in the 9th by-invitation-only experience to hear this Master’s sage advice. And listen, she did. It was a turning point for her.

“[Buffett] talked about the importance of education and doing what you loved, about not doing something that you’d regret, or just for the money. I knew what I loved, but I didn't know if it was going to pay the bills. I wanted to study and teach philosophy,” she said.

Deciding on her new direction, did she find value in completing her business degree?

“I never wanted to drop business as a major. It's my backup plan; it's my fail safe,” she said. “I view my business degree as an asset to my future and not as a burden to finish, even though it was a lot of work.”

Zgurich chose management because it provided an environment to learn soft skills. She knew college coursework typically honed her technical skills, but she recognized her need to improve her ability to work with people, to network with people, to interview.

“I used to have this huge problem when I would present. I would be shaking, and I couldn't talk. I think that confidence and speaking with other people were the most important things I got out of my business degree,” she said.

In spite of her intense class schedule, she found time to give of herself by tutoring others and found that it was a win-win. Her most memorable in this regard was helping an exchange student in her finance class. While it helped him with his English-speaking development and to achieve his high-B, it helped her to improve her teaching skills as well.

For Zgurich, these skills paid off when applying for grad schools. She had a polished application that included a writing sample she had been working on for two years as well as her resume and CV. She received many compliments from the review committees about her application package and interviews, a strong plus given that she competed against masters students for these PhD programs.

Zgurich was accepted to four graduate schools, two of them Ivy League. Zgurich chose Cornell. For her, there are a lot of positive things about Cornell. She was looking for a cohort of students she could work with, exchange feedback, and perhaps collaborate with as co-authors for papers. Realizing when she graduates she will be competing for jobs, “it would be best if we were helping each other.”

Zgurich was also excited that the academic environment would change. Cornell doesn't assign grades at the graduate level in philosophy.

“The people at Cornell are self-driven and that's the kind of thing I want to be around. I can just do my best work,” she said.

Reflecting on her professors at the FCB, she had ‘many favorites.’

“A professor I really liked during my first and second year, was Marc Chopin, economics. I also liked Margaret Dunfee. Her personality is really great. She is so active for an evening class! I'm emotionally drained, and she's just ready to go. I also like David Albritton. I'm sad I'm getting my first B in the entire history of forever from him, but he's such a nice person, I can't even complain. He and Geoff Dick are really supportive about my decision to attend graduate school and very excited about everything they teach,” she said. “I think I may adopt some of their teaching styles in my future.”

Zgurich’s goal is to obtain a tenure-track professorship. She believes she’ll have a major advantage upon graduation from Cornell, due to the soft skills she developed at the FCB.

“Philosophy people are just so up in their head all the time... Even though they are smart and really qualified people, they just don't know how to present themselves as such. I think [my soft skills] are going to help me, too, once I finally achieve the dream,” she said.

But for the moment, she looks forward to the years immediately ahead.

“I’m especially glad for the focus I will have in graduate school. Instead of juggling so many different things, I’ll be able to concentrate on developing my teaching skills and researching new philosophical material,” she concluded.

Categories: brianna zgurich summer 2017 2017 warren buffett david albritton geoffrey dick margaret dunfee marc chopin