Alumni Profile: Shannon Pierce ’10

Alumni Profile: Shannon Pierce ’10
Degree(s): BA Psychology and Spanish – UW–Madison
Current Occupation: Parole Commissioner – Wisconsin Parole Commission

What are some of the benefits of your psychology degree?
As with any human services field, there’s a great deal of psychology involved in my interactions. Within the criminal justice system, there are a disproportionate number of individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders. My degree has provided the base knowledge needed to understand these disorders and to more effectively make decisions that align with their unique needs and responsivity factors. Additionally, I developed the skills to read and synthesize relevant research so I can advocate for more evidence-based decisions.

How did you find your way to your current profession?
As an undergrad at UW, I knew I was interested in criminal justice and mental health. I majored in Psychology and Spanish and got my certificate in Criminal Justice. As part of the psych program, I did an internship with Fordem Connections working with individuals with schizophrenia. Afterward, I did a second internship through the criminal justice program and worked with a Probation and Parole Agent at the Department of Corrections. Both experiences were immensely beneficial not just in developing relevant skills and knowledge, but also in helping me narrow my interests. It turns out I am much better suited for criminal justice than mental health treatment.

After graduating in December 2010, I took a job working as a case manager for Wisconsin Community Services. I provided case management and day report services, but I also ran our re-entry employment program to assist Huber inmates develop job-seeking skills. After a year, I was finally able to apply for the job I really wanted – probation and parole. In 2012, I started as a Probation and Parole Agent and specialized in supervising sex offenders. After five years as an agent, I promoted in 2017 to Corrections Field Supervisor. As a supervisor, I supervised eleven agents and helped develop a specialized sex offender supervision unit that spanned six counties and seven offices. After three years as I supervisor, I transitioned to my current role as a Parole Commissioner. In this role, I meet with parole eligible inmates and help determine their readiness for community release.

What advice would you give to students graduating with a psychology degree?
For students graduating with psychology degrees, I encourage you to accept as many internships, job shadows, and hands-on opportunities you possibly can. Not only is the experience absolutely necessary when applying for jobs, seeing the reality of a job can provide important guidance in choosing a job you’ll enjoy and find rewarding. Furthermore, every connection you make is another person to turn to for advice and assistance as you navigate your career path. And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the experiences you only get in college. After college, it’s much harder to backpack around Europe for a month with your best friends, but those are the stories you’ll retell when you all catch up again around the holidays.