For Two-Time Grad Lily Gowan, Piedmont University is Family
When Lily Gowan thinks about Piedmont University, one word comes to mind first: family.
“I come from a huge family, but even though there’s a lot of us, we’re all very close. I felt the same way at Piedmont. Everyone was very close; it was a close-knit community where I knew everyone was rooting for me,” Gowan said.
“Piedmont helped make me the person I am now. Those were some of the best years of my life.”
Like most first-generation college students, Gowan needed extra support to navigate college. That’s exactly what she found here at Piedmont, and with the help of her “Piedmont family,” Gowan earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance and Master of Arts in Music Education.
Today, she teaches music at Baldwin Elementary.
Gowan’s journey to Piedmont, and ultimately to her very own classroom, began in Mexico, where she was born and lived until age 6. Gowan’s mother stayed at home to raise the family’s 12 children, while her father cared for horses. The couple wanted their children to have an education and the freedom to pursue their dreams. They set their sights on a better life in Georgia, settling first in Alpharetta then moving to Dawsonville.
With her parents’ constant encouragement, Gowan discovered early on that her dream was a career in music education.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, and I’ve loved music all my life,” she said. “I just wanted to do something more with my life. I always felt like there was a bigger purpose for me, and I found that in music.”
While in high school, Gowan took part in music competitions at Piedmont, and from her very first moment on campus, felt right at home.
“Everyone went out of their way to make me feel comfortable,” she said.
The relationships with faculty and staff members at Piedmont were critical. Her parents encouraged her pursuit of higher education, but because they hadn’t gone to college themselves, they couldn’t offer much help with the admissions process or applying for financial aid.
That’s when she leaned on her Piedmont family.
“The faculty and staff helped me figure out what I needed to do to get to my ultimate goal,” she said.
“That sense of family extended into the classroom too. The classes were small, so I felt comfortable raising my hand to ask questions.”
While at Piedmont, Gowan worked in Undergraduate Admissions and helped create Dia de la Familia — Family Day in English — to help Hispanic families learn more about Piedmont.
Gowan completed her bachelor’s degree in 2013 and her master’s in 2015, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I broke the mold in my family. It makes my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews believe they can do it too — and they can,” she said.
Now an educator herself, Gowan strives to provide her own students with the same support and encouragement she received while studying at Piedmont.
“I had a student recently who told me he didn’t think he would ever be able to do anything with his life because he doesn’t have money. He said he might work at a fast-food restaurant one day, but that’s it,” Gowan said.
“I told him my story, about how my family didn’t have any money, but that I focused and worked hard. I told him I would walk to the library to work on my college application and wait there until my brothers could pick me up after their shift. I told him to go home and think about that. He came back the next day and told me he wants to be a lawyer. I told him he can do that if he keeps dreaming and working.”
Learn more about Piedmont’s music programs at piedmont.edu/music and graduate degrees at piedmont.edu/graduate.