Flowers Finds Her Way Back to UMIACS

Published December 8, 2023

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They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

That has proven true for Carolyn Flowers, who has returned to the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) after working in other positions within the University System of Maryland for the past eight years.

Flowers recently started back at UMIACS as the new Associate Director of Research Administration. In this role, she will be assisting faculty with creating, routing and submitting research proposals as well as helping principal investigators, centers and institutes manage their award and grant money once their proposals are funded.

“I am grateful to UMIACS for bringing me back,” she says. “Everyone is so friendly, supportive and kind—you walk into the UMIACS business suite, and you can just feel that it’s a special place to work.”

Flowers' first exposure to UMIACS was in July 2012 when she was hired as a coordinator for the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2). Managed by UMIACS, the center had begun operations earlier that summer as a joint effort between the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Flowers was responsible for coordinating events that included an annual research symposium, finding space for a growing population of graduate students and postdocs and helping to manage the center’s finances.

She was also heavily involved with the planning and execution of MC2’s official opening in a renovated suite of offices in the A.V. Williams Building. The event brought VIPs from both on and off campus that wanted to celebrate the launch of the state’s flagship research and education hub for cybersecurity.

“I really enjoyed being a part of the inaugural experience of the opening of MC2,” she says. “It was very rewarding and fulfilling.”

About three years into her tenure at MC2, Flowers was seeking additional responsibilities and began collaborating with UMIACS business staff on the complex financials involved in managing research grants and contracts.

She says she “fell in love” with research administration and subsequently decided to upgrade her skills by completing a certification program through the university’s Office of Research Administration.

Doing so cemented her to desire to continue pursuing a career in research administration. In 2015, Flowers took a job as a research coordinator at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), a partnership between the federal government and UMD that is focused on climate variability and change, global water issues, atmospheric composition, and more.

“ESSIC was a wonderful place to work honing my pre-and post-award skills,” she says. “I got to hang out with scientists from NASA Goddard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and met lifelong friends in the research administration field.”

After three years at ESSIC that included watching her two children graduate from UMD, Flowers decided to accept a position closer to her home in Elkridge, Maryland. She took on a new job as a senior business manager in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

She says that it was another wonderful opportunity to grow and learn—she earned additional accreditation for research administration while there—but she also realized that UMD and UMBC had distinctly different ways of managing research grants.

Believing she was better suited for the College Park method, when she heard of a new position opening in the UMD Department of Computer Science, she applied and was soon working in the department’s new home in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering.

While happy with this new job, she learned after being back on the UMD campus for almost 18 months that UMIACS was doing some business office restructuring—which included creating a new position to assist with the growing volume of research funding and expenditures that the institute was managing.

Flowers decided to throw her hat in the ring, applied for the job, and was subsequently hired, bringing her back to where she had started more than a decade earlier.

She now works closely with UMIACS Director of Finance Petra Zapf, and Director of Research Program Administration Yerty Valenzuela.

Zapf says she is elated to have Flowers “back in the UMIACS family,” adding that Flowers is already doing “an amazing job” in the short time since her return.

Flowers says she looks forward to meeting any fresh challenges and to contributing toward UMIACS’ continued success and impact.

“What excites me most is working with such wonderful and smart people, particularly within the business office,” she says. “Petra and Yerty were my mentors in the beginning with UMIACS, and they have also become good friends. I feel like I’m truly back home now.”

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld, UMIACS communications group