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Middlesex Community College
Cowan herself has come a long way,
too. A first-generation college student,
she attended Salem State College after
graduating from high school in Lynn.
Her mother, a single parent raising
three children, worked as a seamstress
in a dress factory. There wasn't a lot of
money, but going to college was always
the goal in her family, she said.
"I originally wanted to attend
secretarial school for two years and
then go to work. I was very concerned
about getting a good job," recalled
Cowan. "That's why I understand
the end game here for so many of
our students."
But an uncle encouraged her to try
Salem State, and she loved it. After
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graduating, at the age of 21, Cowan
became a teacher at Georgetown High
School. She later earned a master's
degree at Salem State, a Certificate of
Advanced Graduate Study at Boston
State College, and a doctorate at
UMass Amherst.
"Being the first generation to college
rings a bell with me. I understand that
college changes lives. It definitely
changed my life."
A tireless supporter of public higher
education, at the state and national
levels, Cowan has worked to keep it
affordable and accessible. "I have a
real commitment to public education in
Massachusetts. I'm a product of public
higher ed I wouldn't be where I am
today without Salem State.
"What I've tried to do at Middlesex is
build an institutional climate that is
welcoming and worthy of our students."
Looking back at her own educational
journey, Cowan has this advice for
current Middlesex students: "Take it
seriously. I think the opportunities
are here."
"I recognize everybody has many,
many competing priorities in their
lives home commitments, families,
children, jobs. It can be very difficult to
find space and time for your studies,"
she said.
"But if you take it seriously, the rewards
are there in the end."
Kathy Register