Class of 2024: Emily Gaven

by Graham Hays

Graduate student builds team bonds, on and off the lacrosse field


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For the better part of the past two decades, Emily Gaven has loved few things more than getting in the way of five ounces of vulcanized rubber whipped her way at speeds that would trigger a ticket on most highways. Such is the perilous life of a lacrosse goalie.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that she found fun in a class on corporate valuation, a subject that might sound daunting to some. She enjoyed the intense collaboration and weekend hours working with a team from the Owen Graduate School of Management’s Master’s in Finance program. The work expanded her boundaries. In the numbers and details, she saw her future coming into focus.

“I feel like I became fast friends with the people in my program because we spent so much time together from the get-go—Owen is a very collaborative environment,” Gaven said. “And I learned a lot about the skills involved in valuing a company, which you’re likely going to do in your job post-graduation, if you’re working in finance.”

That’s another other thing goalies know better than most. The best way to keep the other team from getting the best of you—and avoid the ball leaving you black and blue? Have a good team around you.

Dream School

Before taking on corporate valuation, Gaven had to evaluate her own future growth prospects. After earning Big East lacrosse accolades and her undergraduate degree in global business and government at Georgetown University, she wanted to savor one more year on the field and prepare for all the years to come.

“Vanderbilt specifically had been my dream school since I was a little girl, and it’s an awesome athletic institution. It’s somewhere where I could really challenge myself both academically and athletically,” she said.

“Nashville is an awesome city. I feel like I stepped out of my comfort zone coming to a new school, not really knowing anyone, and I’ve definitely learned a lot and grown a lot in my time here,” she said.

Taking the First Steps

Gaven didn’t grow up dreaming of a career in finance or even starring on the lacrosse field. Some days, she wanted to be president. Other days, a famous singer—or maybe a dancer, with help from Irish step dancing classes.

But if her dreams changed daily, her willingness to learn and work to achieve them never wavered. For that, she credits her dad, an educator, and mom, who worked in finance and was the first in her family to attend college.

She’s had many important mentors, including Vanderbilt head coach Beth Hewitt and her coaching staff and longtime Georgetown head coach Ricky Fried and his staff. But neither they nor those mentors still to come are likely to displace the two who first showed her what was required to make dreams into reality. They made quite a team.

“It’s the two of them together,” Gaven said. “The lessons and paths that they followed, and the lessons that they’ve taught me, helped shape where I am today.”

The Path to Vanderbilt

effect on business and commerce. The material fascinated her, and she was able to master Spanish as a second language. That was the first step to the career she sought.

“What I learned at Georgetown gave me a broad-based overview of business in the United States and globally,” Gaven said. “I feel like that’s really helped build my background with what I’m learning right now in the master of science in finance program.”

“I’m looking to go into a career in finance and most likely work for the private sector, probably banking. But ultimately, long term, I see myself eventually going back to work for the government. That’s how I hope to weave my two degrees together.”

Just as lacrosse helped her weave two universities together.

Gaven and a group of students who are learning about lacrosse for the first time.

Showing Others the Way Forward

Gaven’s commitment to the team-first mentality extends beyond the lacrosse field and Owen library. She is one of 28 students nationwide, along with former Vanderbilt track and field standout Kaira Brown and student-manager and sports and society intern Katelyn Parham, to be selected for the Engaged Athlete Fellowship program.

Gaven describes the program, sponsored by The Team, a nonprofit organization, as “focused on helping student-athletes leverage their platforms to make a difference in their community and promote civic engagement.”

The participants meet regularly over Zoom to discuss important issues and go through leadership development training. Each fellow also works on a yearlong project. Gaven’s centered on community service. She is calling on her peers’ competitive instincts by challenging Vanderbilt teams to compete to accrue the most community service hours.

“It’s not about just racking up points and the winning team at the end of the year,” Gaven said. “It’s a way to get student-athletes engaged and help them feel the benefits that come with making a difference in your community and volunteering your time.”

Three Questions …

Vanderbilt is …

Vanderbilt is a place where you can develop lifelong friendships, and also a place where you can challenge yourself to become a better person, whether that’s on the field, in the classroom or just as a friend or teammate. I think “dare to grow” is the motto that sticks out the most to me when I think about Vanderbilt.

What is your advice to current and future student-athletes?

I think the mindset that you have when you’re playing a Division I sport, or any sport in college, is really critical. My sister plays lacrosse at Marist, and that is something that I always talk to her about. I think you need to come into every day with a positive mindset and a willingness to try something new and go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. As a goalie on the lacrosse team, the mental game is something that I’ve worked on a lot.

What have you learned from other women in Owen?

I learned a lot from other MBAs who are older than me, women who have worked in different industries and now are coming back to get their MBA. It’s really inspiring. There’s a Women in Business Association at Owen, and they’ve had a ton of great mentorship opportunities, club meetings and things like that. It’s been really great to form that close dynamic with other women in the program.


Learn more about Emily at the link in our bio! #VU2024

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