Travel Guide: Linda McGowan ’80
Linda Mathers McGowan ‘80 can relate to students who hail from small towns and lack high-powered connections. She comes from tiny Apalachin, N.Y., and when she began studying accounting at the University, she had an unusual plan B regarding tuition. “I have eight brothers and sisters,” she said. “So I had to beg and borrow — I paid my own way through school. My back-up plan, in the event I couldn’t earn enough to pay for room and board, was to live with my grandparents in a suburb of Scranton.”
Fortunately, a job at the University’s cafeteria kept the grandparents’ spare bedroom empty. It also gave McGowan the unique opportunity to bond with some of her professors outside of the classroom. She frequently worked catered events, like faculty parties. In this setting, she had a chance to form a friendship with her accounting professor John P. McLean. “He became my mentor,” McGowan said. “We would have career discussions. When I started getting offers (McGowan had offers from all the then-Big 8 accounting firms), he would go over them with me.”
In the end, McGowan chose to join Coopers Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in New York City. She made the decision because “the firm’s values fit with those of Scranton. This firm has an emphasis on giving back.”
Since joining the prestigious firm, McGowan has given back to Scranton in a big way. She has been instrumental in building an internship program for Scranton students at PwC offices all over the country. The highly successful program began with a conversation she had with a partner in 2002. “Sarbanes Oxley had just passed, and we were going to be very busy that audit season. My partner said, ‘Scranton has that long winter break, maybe we can get some interns.’”
McGowan worked with Brian Carpenter, Ph.D., professor of accounting, to establish the program. The first group of students excelled, as did the next. Each group worked in McGowan’s Banking and Capital Markets area . . . that is until McGowan got a call from HR saying, “You can’t have them all!” Now Scranton interns can be found in every PwC practice area.
With the interns came an insight that Scranton students could benefit from some professional mentoring. “Our students are hard-working and enthusiastic,” McGowan said. “But assuming good grades, what makes a candidate stand out is demonstrating leadership, teamwork and initiative.” The Kania School Mentoring Program was developed to help with this.
As a mentor, McGowan aids students with whatever they personally want to accomplish. Sometimes it’s helping them make contacts in a particular field or firm; other times it’s helping with interview preparation. “Sometimes it’s something as simple as noticing they just put ‘Business Leadership student’ on their resume. What does that mean? They need to explain this is an exclusive honors program.”
The mentoring has achieved remarkable results. Last year, 15 students got 15 coveted internships at PwC, and each subsequently got a job with the firm.
McGowan said she plans to continue to help the University, both through her present work and also by encouraging more students to become accounting professors. To that end, Scranton has already been a recipient of a PwC research grant.
Looking back, McGowan said, it was “quite a challenge going from Apalachin to New York City, but the University gave me my background and ability to think through business problems. I want to help others make that same transition.”