Kelly McGowan ’19 Brings Art to Technology at IBM

Kelly McGowan ’19 Brings Art to Technology at IBM


Our alumni often tell us about the career dreams that led them to Stevens. Kelly McGowan ’19 found her way to Stevens because of a dream – but it wasn’t hers and it was of the actual while-you-are-sleeping variety.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I had been so busy running track,” she recalls. Out of the blue, McGowan’s mother told her of a dream she had, during which she saw her daughter studying art at Stevens.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time,” she says, “but we decided to take a look at the university’s website and sure enough, we learned about the Visual Arts & Technology major!”

McGowan always enjoyed expressing herself through art, but she never really considered it as a profession. “I didn’t even have a portfolio,” she notes. “But then I learned that I didn’t need one to enroll in the Stevens program. Plus, the program offered all kinds of media, which would give me options to explore a lot of different things.”

McGowan’s bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts & Technology gave her a solid foundation for the work she is now doing at IBM. “I work for the Chief Information Officer building tools for IBM users around the world,” she tells us. “As a visual designer, I help the user experience designers understand how people perceive what they see, and how they might act in response. It’s about how people interact with things and each other.”

McGowan was ready for her new role. “I was well prepared to use all of the technology that I would need,” she says. In addition, before joining IBM’s staff she was part of two Stevens design class visits to the company. “The first visit took place right after I had been hired as an intern there,” she says. “The second time I was already interning there and was able to participate in the visit from the IBM side. The Stevens-IBM partnership has really benefited my career.”

Sometimes, though, McGowan misses Castle Point life. “In my sophomore year, I and a few friends created the Poetry Club. We met regularly to write and to bind our own poetry books,” she remembers. “My favorite part was when we held open mic nights. We’d gather in Hayden Lounge, hang up some string lights, and take turns performing poetry. It was a really special community that continues today, and I will always be proud that we won New Student Organization of the Year at the Student Awards after our first year!”

Looking ahead, McGowan hopes to be able to attend special lectures sponsored by the Visual Arts & Technology program, which are generally open to alumni. She is also eager to help keep the Stevens-IBM partnership going.

This recent graduate also has some great advice for today’s Stevens students: “Take advantage of your college years,” she advises. “Don’t take this time for granted. Make the most of the resources available to you and push yourself to get what you want out of each class. And most of all, enjoy the experience!”


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