UM-Flint alumna and Flint resident Marissa Pierce graduated in 2003 with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Africana Studies; she later returned to earn her MA in English Language and Literature, graduating in 2009.
Currently, Pierce is the Public & Community Relations Coordinator for the Flint Institute of Arts and a part-time English Instructor at Mott Community College. She also maintains an entertainment and lifestyle website, phashionphish.com, and is in the beginning stages of starting Surprise! — a non-profit that will provide mentoring and host “parties for kids and teens that would otherwise be unable to have one.”
Pierce’s decision to attend UM-Flint was an easy one. “I had always been a Michigan fan, and being able to get a Michigan degree close to home appealed to me,” she noted. “I also was drawn to the course offerings and small class sizes that made for a more ‘intimate’ educational experience.
“I chose to return for my Masters degree because I was interested in teaching and knew I would need the degree to position myself for that next step in my career,” Pierce continued. “I also consider myself a lifelong learner, and although I had vowed to not step foot in a school again until I took my child to kindergarten, I knew that continuing my education was important and would be worthwhile. It has not only helped my career, but also enriched my personal life.”
Choosing her path at UM-Flint
At UM-Flint, Pierce selected academic programs that gave her room to explore her strengths and interests, and that would allow her flexibility in her future career. “UM-Flint has great programs, committed faculty and staff, and continued growth that not only meets the needs of students, but the community,” she reflected. “Those strengths make it not just a good school, but a great one.
“What I loved about the Communication and English programs was the freedom. I was able to really tailor my college experience to my interests. I would definitely recommend these programs, because they both have a number of options career wise, and I have found that I have been able to ‘write my own ticket’ so to speak. The variety of options that have been available to me with these two degrees is astounding, and in many instances have been things I didn’t even realize I was interested in.”
Pierce found her UM-Flint faculty to not only be supportive mentors, but to be friends as well. She is still in touch with a number of them and they continue to be resources in her professional life. When considering her most influential faculty, Pierce noted Dr. Charles Apple of Communication Studies and Jan Worth-Nelson of English. “They were always available to chat and I knew they were not only committed to the success of the program, but to the students,” she reflected.
Pierce found many valuable experiences outside of the classroom as well. “I was a writer for the M-Times (UM-Flint’s student newspaper) and College Representative for Def Jam Records while in undergrad and those were some of my greatest experiences,” she said. “I began writing about entertainment in high school and continued that at the M-Times and I got to cover some great shows, including Ricky Martin during the ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ craze. And being a college representative for Def Jam was so much fun! I made some lifelong connections and one of my best friends still works there! I returned to write for the M-Times while working on my MA.”
Connecting Coursework and Community
In early 2018, the Flint Institute of Arts hosted Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence. The exhibit showcased bead art created by a community of women in South Africa and was featured as a community event by UM-Flint Africana Studies for their annual Africa Week celebration. It was also a chance for Pierce to connect her undergraduate minor and her career. “I loved learning not only about African American history, but also African history,” said Pierce as she reflected on her studies. “I think being able to make the connection and ‘bridge the gap,’ if you will, is essential to really understanding the history of African Americans in the United States.”
Pierce has found that the impact of her courses still strongly resonates in her life. “I frequently talk about how the classes were some of my favorites during my time at UM-Flint, and how what I learned has shaped me as a person. I think learning about your heritage at the collegiate level is always beneficial, and exciting. I learned things that made a light bulb go off, and had many ‘ah-ha’ moments. In my career, I am able to bring many of the things I learned into conversations as it has relates to working with different cultures and ethnicities in the community.
“Exhibitions like this and the programming in the Africana Studies Department are important because they allow you to see art and the world through a very different lens than many of us are used to,” continued Pierce. “It does really allow us to make connections between the African and African American experience, and see beyond what we already know. Learning, be it at the Flint Institute of Arts or through the Africana Studies Department not only benefits the student, but the people and greater community that student interacts with. It really is a win-win for everyone!”
UM-Flint students can take advantage of the many learning opportunities provided by the FIA through their College Town program that provides free membership to college students. Learn more at flintarts.org/join-and-give/college-town.
For information on Africana Studies, Communication Studies, and other programs and majors offered through UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, visit umflint.edu/CAS.