Student Affairs Research and Assessment
Holliday-Millard Finds Home, Career Path at Charlotte
By Wyatt Crosher, Assistant Director of Communications for Student Affairs
Sometimes, a new position comes from taking on a unique challenge or finding something that works with skills that an individual already has.
For Paul Holliday-Millard, senior research associate for UNC Charlotte’s Student Affairs Research and Assessment (SARA) team, his current role came from multiple signs — both from himself and others — that assessment may be his calling.
"For whatever reason, ever since I earned my master's degree, I was always tasked to do some assessment project,” Holliday-Millard said. “It's always been something I either wanted to do, or was tasked with doing. Eventually I figured I was pretty decent at this, people like the work that I do. Let me investigate this as a full position.”
Holliday-Millard came to the University from Atlanta in 2015. At that time, Paul and his husband, Jordan, were looking for a fresh start outside the city, and found Charlotte with the help of a former employee. Paul ended up working at the Belk College of Business, first as an academic and career coach, then as an associate director of academic and career coaching.
Overall, Holliday-Millard spent six years in the college of business before ultimately finding his current landing spot with the SARA team.
“I had been student-facing in all my positions since 2011, so I was ready for something different. My boss at the time tasked me to do assessment for the advising center,” Holliday-Millard said. “I wasn't necessarily looking to leave advising, I had a great boss, the team was great, but I was looking for something new.”
The desire to enter the student affairs world first emerged during Holliday-Millard’s time as an undergrad at Roanoke College. There, he worked as a resident assistant (RA) and as an intern for the Office of Multicultural Affairs. But it was also his experiences with the student affairs staff at the college that made him want to pursue a career in the field.
“I came out in my sophomore year of college, and that was a pretty challenging experience for me. But a lot of mentors and the people that supported me through that process were student affairs professionals,” Holliday-Millard said. “Originally, I wanted to help other people become who they want to be on a college campus and help them be successful, both academically and outside the classroom.”
Ultimately, Holliday-Millard went to the University of South Carolina for a master's in higher education and student affairs. Six years later, he earned another degree, this time at Charlotte: a doctorate from the Cato College of Education in higher education administration.
After working at the University for eight years, along with earning a doctorate, Holliday-Millard said he appreciates Charlotte’s openness to new ideas.
"The places I was at previously were very old institutions, they have their ways of doing things. But one of the things I like about Charlotte is that I've never heard anyone say, 'Well, we just don't do it that way here,'” he said. “I think Charlotte is very innovative, we're trying new things, and I very much feel, in a good way, that I have to be informed and be on my toes."
While many assessment teams can be very numbers driven, Holliday-Millard enjoys his position for how the University allows the SARA team to reach outside the box and focus on more than just the quantitative data.
"We all feel strongly that assessment isn't just about key performance indicators. It's about student stories and holistic student development, as well as the numbers and statistics,” Holliday-Millard said. “It's really making sure that we are documenting every part of the student experience as much as possible. My background is qualitative research and assessment, so being on a team that really values that can be hard to come by in an office like this. I feel very lucky."
Recently the SARA team, which also includes divisional director Dr. Ellissa Brooks Nelson and research associate Dr. Jordan Bullington-Miller, won the Outstanding Team Contribution award at the Student Affairs End-of-Year Celebration. Earning that honor meant a lot to Holliday-Millard, as it showed that the three SARA members are more than the sum of their parts.
"When we hired Jordan on our team, Ellissa gave us a little gift. It's a paperweight that says, 'Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,'” Holliday-Millard said. “The award demonstrates how we complement each other. It is really nice to be recognized, and we know we have a lot to offer the division."
Holliday-Millard’s student affairs journey has taken him through housing, advising and, ultimately, to assessment. It has taken him to multiple universities before finding Charlotte. His advice to others interested in following a student affairs path is to keep an open mind.
"It's important to keep your options open. Find a program that meets your needs, that you feel comfortable with, but also explore all different types of things,” he said. “Students are complex, they interact with these big schools in so many different ways, so we need student affairs professionals everywhere."