Jordan Pierce, an incoming UMD Criminology and Criminal Justice PhD student, was awarded the 2022 Laure Brooks Best Thesis Award for her research in the UMD CCJS Undergraduate Honors Program.
Her thesis, deemed outstanding by Dr. Bianca Bersani, director of the Undergraduate Honors Program, concerned college students’ attitudes towards those with criminal records being in higher education.
After doing a deep dive into her topic, Pierce conducted a survey and analyzed the results for her thesis.
“I wanted to collect my own data, so I thought a survey would be perfect,” she said. “I saw that no one had surveyed college students about this issue, even though they’re directly impacted by whether people with criminal records are in classes with them.”
Pierce’s results indicated that college students “were generally supportive of those with criminal records having access to higher education and were not highly concerned about these individuals negatively impacting campus safety.”
She was ecstatic, thankful, and surprised to have received the highest honors program award for her work.
“It was funny; I rolled over in bed, looked at my phone, and I was like, ‘Why do I have a thousand notifications?’ My mother called me right when I texted her [that I won the award] and she screamed over the phone,” Pierce said. “It was really affirming to have that kind of recognition—that you did this work and it ended up being really good.”
As she transitions from being an undergraduate to a graduate student in Maryland’s CCJS PhD program, Pierce indicated she would love to continue looking into issues of re-entry.
“We have so many people that are already impacted by the criminal justice system,” she said. “We need to understand and try to remedy how the system impacts those people…They already exist, and we have to do something about it.”
Pierce is particularly grateful to Dr. Bersani, Dr. Sally Simpson, and Dr. Laure Brooks for their support and guidance throughout her undergraduate career and the process of applying to graduate school.
“Having access to the [Maryland] faculty who are doing research was really helpful as an undergraduate,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten to interact with a lot of these faculty members if I hadn’t been in the honors program…the honors program basically demonstrated to me what research really is…that was good [in helping me] decide, ‘Oh, yeah, this is something I’m actually good at and that I would like to continue.’”
Dr. Simpson spoke highly of Pierce’s intelligence and work ethic.
“Sitting in the front row of CCJS 105, Jordan was an engaged and critically thoughtful student,” Dr. Simpson said. “When she approached me about research opportunities, I didn’t hesitate…it has been a real treat to see just how far she has come since Intro to Criminology.”
After working with Pierce on two research projects, Dr. Simpson is excited to see Jordan continue to grow as she pursues her PhD and continues at Maryland CCJS.
“When she told me that she planned to attend graduate school, I predicted that she would be admitted nearly everywhere she applied,” Dr. Simpson said. “My hypothesis was confirmed! I am so pleased that she chose us.”
Pierce said continuing at Maryland made the most sense for her in terms of her career goals and program fit.
“I know graduate school is going to be hard,” she said. “It’s going to be a difficult journey, so I should be at a place where I feel most at home and can excel…I don’t think I can go wrong with such great people around me.
To read Jordan’s and other honors student theses, click here for the 2022 Honors Program class thesis repository.
To learn more about the honors program, see the webpage here.
To support the honors program and help undergraduate students like Jordan pursue their research, click here to donate.