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Gunilla Nilsson ’92 — Sweden

Banker with a Different Bottom Line

Unlike friends who had the luxury of going on campus tours, Gunilla Nilsson ’92 picked Swarthmore out of a book of U.S. colleges.

“It was a lucky fluke,” she says.

“I had a wonderful time at Swarthmore,” Nilsson adds. “I was exposed to topics in the classroom that I would never have encountered had I stayed in Sweden. I met a very diverse student body. And this possibly sounds a bit goofy, but I really like that Swarthmore’s so idealistic. It’s wonderful when you’re young to go to that sort of place, because it really makes you feel like you can do anything.”

Nilsson studied economics at Swarthmore and went into investment banking, a career she enjoyed but did not find entirely fulfilling. “As I grew older, I guess my Swarthmore roots came back to me,” she says, “and I realized I wanted to do something that was more useful to society.”

So for the past decade, Nilsson has worked for Swedfund, a development finance institution owned by the Swedish government that invests in developing countries with an aim toward creating jobs and alleviating poverty. As a senior investment manager, Nilsson leads a team that invests in renewable energy projects, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and in poorer countries in Asia.

“It’s quite fascinating to visit a site in Namibia, and a year later you come back and see that there’s a very large solar farm that’s been built,” says Nilsson.

“My job,” she adds, “is very Swarthmore.”

Next: Efua Asibon ’16 — Ghana