Merrill College

Merrill's Vanessa Nichols-Holmes Wins UMD OMSE Excellence in Service Award for Outstanding Staff Member

COLLEGE PARK -- Vanessa Nichols-Holmes, the assistant dean for business operations at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, has been named the recipient of the 2021 Excellence in Service Award for Outstanding Staff Member by the UMD Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education.

Vanessa Nichols-HolmesThe award goes to a university staff member who has made outstanding contributions to the academic excellence and lives of multi-ethnic students at UMD. The award considers how the individual gives freely and unselfishly of their time to multi-ethnic students and/or multi-cultural community activities; how the nominee inspires multi-ethnic students and acts as a role model; how the nominee has had a positive impact on the academic success of multi-ethnic students; and how the nominee improves the lives of others.

“Vanessa Nichols-Holmes has been quietly helping and advocating for multi-ethnic students since the day she arrived on campus,” Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish said. “We have always relied on her to give us a clear-eyed picture of the needs of our students.”

The Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education will hold a virtual Academic Excellence Awards ceremony on March 30 at 6 p.m. to recognize award winners in several categories.

Nichols-Holmes is an Air Force veteran has been with Merrill College for her entire career at UMD. Starting as a business services specialist in 2004, she was promoted to business manager in 2011 and then became the assistant dean for business operations in January 2017. She manages the financial and administrative functions of the college.

The nominating letter for the award described Nichols-Holmes' contributions to the college’s students and employees that have long gone well beyond her job description. 

“Vanessa’s office is a safe space for many of our students. She is one of the first people our students meet and as an African American member of the LGBTQ community, she connects with students in a way that not many staff members can,” the submission read. 

“In her early days at Maryland, in the old Journalism building, she became known as the lady who would help you out if you were hungry or needed something for class. Students come to her for advice, support, even food. She is their safety net, one of the campus’ quiet ‘strainers,’ making sure that vulnerable students don’t slip through the campus’ bureaucratic cracks.”

“I am honored to receive this award and hope that in a small way I have made a difference in the lives of the students that I encountered along the way,” Nichols-Holmes said. “I also hope that I have inspired them to pay it forward.”

Nichols-Holmes is studying for her master’s degree in management with a concentration in human resource management at University of Maryland Global Campus with an anticipated graduation date of August 2021.

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