Student Profile: Lily Falzon

Lily Falzon and her uncle, who helped with her research.

Lily Falzon connects history and family


Lily Falzon’s research project in summer 2017 was to shed light on Wang Xiaolai, an extraordinarily successful businessman and former chairman of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce who became part of history when he helped finance Jiang Jiang Jieshi’s (Chiang Kai-shek’s) nationalist army during Jiang’s rise to China’s presidency.


Wang is also Falzon’s great-grandfather, so her project held an extra dimension of importance.


To explore answers, Falzon, a senior majoring in sociology, secured a student research grant through the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies. In summer 2017, she and research partner, Notre Dame senior Enle Lien, embarked on a two-week visit to Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou to comb through archives.


In addition to traditional research, Falzon’s family became a valuable source of information. In fact, one of her uncles had finished a book about Wang Xiaolai shortly before her visit. In addition to sharing stories, photos, and documents, he showed her significant places in Wang’s life and his gravesite.


Even though Falzon still has questions about her influential great-grandfather, her research project makes her feel closer to him.


“This research experience not only expanded my knowledge of Chinese history and culture, but it also showed me my great-grandfather’s place in it and how that has influenced the lives of my entire family,” she says. “Both academically and personally, I couldn’t have imagined a more enriching or immersive experience.”


Lily Falzon graduated in 2018. 


To discuss the Asian studies supplementary major or minor, please contact Alex Hsu, academic advisor at or x7093.