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How University of North Georgia’s new business college dean is paving a path for other first-generation college students
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Since becoming University of North Georgia’s dean of Mike Cottrell College of Business in February, Marty Gowan has taken strides to better prepare students for their careers. (Photo/Peggy Cozart, University of North Georgia)

Mary Gowan, University of North Georgia’s new dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business, worked her way through school as a first-generation college student.

Gowan said her parents valued education even though they didn’t have much themselves. They instilled in Gowan and her two older sisters the importance of pursuing a college career.

“I was taught to work hard and if you work hard, you’ll achieve what you want to achieve,” she said. “I was very fortunate to have a father that never said that you can’t do that just because you’re a girl.”

One of the biggest differences between the University of North Georgia and her other experiences as dean she said is the school’s number of first-generation college students. 

“I appreciate that background and I think it creates different opportunities for us to engage students and employees,” Gowan said. “Their schedules are packed already and it’s important to make those connections and help them think about their future careers.”

If she could give one piece of advice to other first-generation college students, Gowan said she would tell them to set goals and keep working for them.

Gowan received a doctorate in business administration from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in counselor education from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. 

She later went on to work as an associate dean at George Washington University’s School of Business in Washington D.C., and was also dean of James Madison University’s College of Business in Virginia and Elon University’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business in North Carolina.  

Based on those experiences, Gowan intends to keep her role as a “change agent.”

She hopes to set a culture where people feel included in the initiatives the college implements. Gowan said she feels confident in her ability to build business-related programs through finding resources and champions to lead them. 

Gowan said she knew the past two deans of Mike Cottrell College of Business, and felt inspired to become a part of a growing and changing organization. 

So far she has worked for a month and a couple of days in her new dean position. Gowan said upon starting her job she immediately felt energized by the students, staff, programs and myriad of opportunities. 

“I’m just excited in the direction the university is going,” she said. “I think they align with a lot of my values and initiatives.”

She has visited the students of the college’s American Marketing Association, and plans to have more interactions during the upcoming student functions on the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses. 

Gowan said she is thrilled to be at the University of North Georgia and live in the area. 

“I’m looking forward to having fun exploring the region and exploring how the business school can add value to the region,” she said. 


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