As proven by USC Bovard College graduate Evan Pierce, studying human resource management can lead to incredible career highs, exciting opportunities and rewarding experiences.
Pierce, who is the vice president of people and culture for the Boston Celtics (one of the country’s top, most respected basketball teams), recently completed the online Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM) program, and it’s already impacted his career.
Pierce’s professional path, however, didn’t start in California or Massachusetts. Instead, he attended Augustana University, a small liberal arts school in South Dakota, where he received his business degree. He jumped into a career with Ravens Industries, a company with the distinction of manufacturing a major percentage of all balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“I was able to really see the impact HR could have on the business, and I was able to sit with the C-suite. It was such a cool experience to be my first position out of college, and it really opened up a lot of doors,” he explained of Ravens Industries.
From there, Pierce continued to ascend the ladder in the HR world, working for companies in the technology space like Hewlett Packard and even Apple. He loved being part of the tech industry and never thought about leaving — until what he described as a “unicorn opportunity” popped up out of the blue: running the People and Culture division for the Boston Celtics, a position that would combine both his passion for human resources and his love of sports.
But at the same time as this major career move, Pierce was already in the midst of another pivotal professional step. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pierce was inspired to advance his knowledge in HR.
While he initially considered schools including New York University and Cornell University, it was speaking with faculty and alumni from USC Bovard College that sealed his decision to attend the online MSHRM.
“I wanted a program that could provide the nice balance between the academic and real world. Plus, USC provides a lot of flexibility, which I need because I have two kids and a demanding job,” he explained. “And the brand was so huge. I wanted a place where I could go anywhere in the country, and everyone understands USC and what it means. I came from a small school, so being apart of a larger institution with increased resources was very appealing. There’s a strong global alumni network and reputation.”
The online MSHRM program is aimed at helping human resource professionals become more capable and efficient leaders in the space. Students dive into crucial workplace topics like talent acquisition and retention, employee motivation, HR analytics, organizational culture and social responsibility, all to become more thoughtful and accomplished managers.
Although the program is designed for working professionals, incoming students don’t necessarily need an HR background to enroll. It’s also available for those who are new to the field and ready for a career change, meaning there’s a wide breadth of experiences represented in the program. That diversity is just one of the many things that Pierce appreciated about the MSHRM.
“It really opened my eyes … [to] learn about my other classmates’ challenges and their problems … You had a lot of people from recruiting or coming into the business entirely, so they had different perspectives. Sometimes in California, it gets a little isolated in the tech world. You get kind of blinded by what else is going on in other industries. So that was an incredible growth for me,” he said.
Pierce was impressed by how deep his connections ran in the virtual classroom, and he credits that to USC’s commitment to building an engaging, supportive community, regardless of students’ locations.
“USC made the platform to interact with students incredible. All the technology, the support, just getting those resources made the experience with USC so crisp and complete,” he said, adding that faculty were particularly understanding of his personal and professional commitments. “That flexibility and compassion and human recognition meant so much.”
With a master’s degree in hand, Pierce feels his career path is open to a range of possibilities. First, though, he wants to bask in his recent success, both with USC and his position at the Boston Celtics, an organization he’s truly passionate about.
“I don’t know what’s next in five years. I never thought I’d have this career I have now in Boston, for example. I want to [celebrate] finishing up — like walking across the stage with my girls being able to see that. I want to sit in that moment for a bit,” he reflected.
When the time comes, however, Pierce is confident he will be able to continue to grow and grab new experiences with the Celtics. No matter what happens, USC has prepared him with “the right tools, resources and the necessary network” to achieve long term success.
“That would be my hope, but right now, my role is helping other people succeed. I want to keep doing that: to help other people connect, to find new opportunities. I put a lot of passion into supporting others and helping them grow at work. We’re really excited about what’s being built right now at the Boston Celtics,” he said.
Learn more about the online Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM) program today.