Meet a Retriever—Connie Pierson ’90, M.A. ’92, associate vice provost for institutional research

Published: Jul 8, 2024

Connie Pierson and the UMBC mascot, True Grit, standing arm in arm and pointing at the camera.
Connie and True Grit, UMBC's mascot, pointing at the camera.
Meet Connie Pierson ’90, M.A. ’92, a double alum—earning her bachelor’s degree in economics and sociology in 1990 and her M.A. in applied sociology in 1992—and UMBC’s current associate vice provost for Institutional Research. In total, Connie has spent 31 non-consecutive years at UMBC as both a student and staff member. After leaving the university to earn her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a short stint at the U.S. Census Bureau, Connie returned to UMBC in 1999 for a job in the Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Decision Support where she has been ever since. Take it away, Connie!

Q: Tell us about your current job. What do you like most about it?

A: What I love most about my job as the associate vice provost for Institutional Research, Analysis, and Decision Support is that I get to work with so many different offices and people across campus. Institutional Research reports on and supports almost all aspects of an institution—from reporting how many students are enrolled to how long it takes them to finish and how many classrooms and course sections are needed to get them there. Not to mention the people and services making that education possible, and helping assess whether these are all effective. And the job has its perks.

Early on, I recall getting a boost from being responsible for Faculty Workload reporting and working with past professors to complete their departmental reporting. So much fun to have the tables turned, where I was the one yielding the red correction pen! I also love the opportunity to collaborate with so many different people, bringing our diverse perspectives together to best meet the needs of our students. The sense of community and shared purpose is stimulating and keeps the work interesting.

Connie Pierson goofing with her niece, Kelsey Krach '04, anthropology and spanish, a Sondheim Scholar and valedictorian finalist, at graduation where Connie served as the staff marshall

Q: What’s one essential thing you’d want another Retriever to know about you?

A: I think one of the best gifts I received from my parents is a healthy sense of humor. If you don’t typically find humor in situations, it is probably not a good idea to sit by me. The work we do at UMBC is so important, but if you can’t have fun doing it (at least most of the time), what’s the point? Also, I don’t like to back down from a challenge. During the pandemic, a UMBC colleague and I decided to post #BlackAndGoldFriday photos on Facebook. I think she lasted four weeks. I just posted #week223.

Pictured left: Connie Pierson goofing with her niece, Kelsey Krach ’04, anthropology and Spanish, a Sondheim Scholar and valedictorian finalist, at graduation where Connie served as the staff marshall

Q: What do you love about your academic program or an organization you’re involved in?

A: It always comes back to people and relationships. I have had the privilege of working with so many caring and intelligent individuals over the years, both within and outside Institutional Research. IR and UMBC have both undergone a good bit of change over the years, and we’ve had our ups and downs. But I’ve always known that I work with a great group of people who have my back, and they’ve become my UMBC family. 

Q: Tell us about someone in the community who has inspired you or supported you, and how they did it.

A: There are so many people in the UMBC community who’ve influenced my career. Marilyn Demorest, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, was on my search committee, and quickly became a strong supporter and mentor. Marilyn was a great advocate for Institutional Research, and helped pull me into the UMBC community. She was also instrumental in getting me involved in the UMBC chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, where I’ve served in a leadership role since 2010. But most importantly, Marilyn became a true friend, attending my wedding, family funerals, celebrations, and holiday get-togethers. Honestly, once you’ve belted out “I Will Survive” with someone, I think you are friends for life.

UMBC isn’t a place, really, it’s the people.”

Connie Pierson ’90, M.A. ’92

I also must acknowledge Antonio Moreira, the late vice provost for Academic Affairs, to whom I had the privilege to report for the past 10 years. Tony was such a kind and compassionate man, a true mentor, and a friend. His recent loss is akin to losing a family member, and he will be sorely missed.

Connie Pierson, Vice President for Institutional Research, and Jennie O'Grady posing with a cardboard cutout of True Grit.
Connie Pierson and Jenny O’Grady, assistant vice president of content strategy and editor of UMBC Magazine, hang out with a cardboard cutout of True Grit.

Q: What is your WHY? What brought you to UMBC?

A: I have to be honest, what originally attracted me to UMBC as an employee was the shorter commute! I saw the position for a research analyst in Institutional Research. I had no idea what Institutional Research was, but I had research skills and I knew SAS and SPSS, both mentioned in the ad. And I knew UMBC from my time as a student. I interviewed for the position and have been in Institutional Research ever since, moving up from research analyst to associate vice provost in my 25 years here. What has kept me at UMBC is the community and a love for the important work we do in supporting the success of our students.

“What has kept me at UMBC is the community and a love for the important work we do in supporting the success of our students.”

Connie Pierson ’90, M.A. ’92

Q: Where have you found support in the UMBC community?

A: Becoming a part of the UMBC community happens because you get involved with the community. One lesson learned from my parents is that you get out of life what you put into it. You build your network by getting involved and helping others. And you make so many friends along the way.

Connie Pierson posing with the True Grit statue after Convocation.

Q: Are you involved in any campus organizations? Tell us about what you love about them!

A: I’ve tried my best over the years to be involved in different campus organizations. My involvement has definitely waxed and waned given my professional and personal life demands, but I’ve always thought it is important to give back to the community. Over the years, I’ve served as a senator and officer with the Professional Staff Senate, as secretary and president of Chapter 22BC of the national honor society of Phi Kappa Phi, volunteered with the on-campus alumni group, and volunteered at Convocation and Commencement exercises.

I’m also a strong supporter of Retriever Essentials, often choosing them for monetary donations, but also trying to donate grocery items on a fairly regular basis. I’ve also had fun volunteering for Homecoming events over the years. In all of these things, what I love most are the friendships that developed along the way.

Pictured left: Connie takes a selfie with the True Grit statue after Convocation.

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering a career at UMBC?

A: Do it. And get involved. Check out current job opportunities at the university.

Q: What drives you to support UMBC?

A: I believe strongly in the mission and goals of UMBC, and the importance of providing opportunity through higher education. UMBC provided that foundation for me, as well as several of my family members. Supporting UMBC through my work, volunteer time, and monetary donations is just a way of saying “thanks.” 

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UMBC’s greatest strength is its people. When people meet Retrievers and hear about the passion they bring, the relationships they create, the ways they support each other, and the commitment they have to inclusive excellence, they truly get a sense of our community. That’s what “Meet a Retriever” is all about.

Learn more about how UMBC can help you achieve your goals.

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