Marshall Alumni: Where are we now? Pamela Holland


Courtesy of University Communications

Pamela Holland, MA-CCC-SLP/BCS-S, is an Associate Professor, Chair and Graduate Program Director for the Department of Communication Disorders at Marshall University.

Pamela Holland was set to head to West Virginia University in Morgantown when an unexpected acceptance to Marshall’s Majorette’s changed her path.   

“I had a scholarship to go to WVU and had my roommate assigned and was headed to Morgantown, and at the time, my mother did not want me to go away,” Holland said. “So, she found out when the Marshall majorette tryouts were. I thought, well, I’ll just go ahead and try out and see how that goes just, so she knows I won’t make it, and I’ll head on to Morgantown.”

Holland did make the team and had to decide between the two schools. Marshall won based on her love of being a majorette.   

Eventually, Holland said her adviser, Pam Gardner, said she needed to make a decision about being a professional majorette or a speech-language pathologist.   

“I decided to become a speech therapist only because, at the time, my father said he wasn’t going to pay for school anymore unless I decided on a major,” Holland said. “So, I had to quickly decide on a major. I looked through the catalog and decided that that looked like something for me, and I never looked back after that.”  

During Holland’s time at Marshall, she stayed active between being a majorette, participant of greek life and other organizations.   

Holland had no idea what she wanted to do when she started college, other than have a memorable time.   

“I just knew I wanted to go and have a nice college experience. It really wasn’t until my junior year when I decided to be serious about that aspect of college life,” Holland said. “So, that’s what I always tell my students- it’s okay, you can still be very successful.”  

After graduation, Holland moved on to the next chapter of life — marriage.   

“I graduated one week, got married the next. My husband was in the military, so we traveled the next year,” Holland said. “I came back the following year to grad school at Marshall.”  

Holland says she truly bleeds green as she plans to finish her doctoral program with Marshall.   

“I still don’t know what I want to do. I will be honest with you,” Holland said. “It’s interesting, I’m obviously working at Marshall, but I just went back in the fall and started my doctoral program here as well. I’m enrolled in leadership studies.”  

Holland has worked in various places, including King’s Daughter’s Medical Center, when she was recruited back to Marshall.

“The Huntington Scottish Rite of Free Masonry collaborated with Marshall, and they wanted to start a Scottish Rite program,” Holland said. “Which was basically a speech and hearing center that offers services to families who otherwise could not afford it. It’s a scholarship program.”  

This was the start of Marshall having clinical faculty on staff.   

“It meant a lot to me to work with people who taught me to be a professional in the field, and it meant even more to me that I wouldn’t have to fight for insurance for my clients,” Holland said. “That was really important. I thought that we have a group of men that were raising money to support children who have families that maybe could not otherwise support these speech and language therapy services.”  

Holland says different circumstances led her to the next step, every time.   

“People always talk about it being at the right place at the right time with the right people. I think that is definitely my story,” Holland said.  

Holland moved into a teaching position when someone went on sabbatical and then invited to full-time after someone retired.   

One thing Holland was adamant about not being for her was a doctorate degree.   

“One of our accrediting bodies indicated we needed to focus on getting more doctorate-level faculty,” Holland said. “I said I don’t want to do that. I’m not doing that. I don’t ever want to get my doctorate, but I would be interested in working on my board certification.”  

Holland completed her certification in swallowing and swallowing disorders. While not a doctorate, she believed this would be great for the accreditation board.   

Holland decided to work towards her doctorate when she had to tell someone they needed theirs.

 “And I had to tell someone we were hiring that she needed to get her doctorate at some point. And I didn’t really feel like that was very good leadership for me to say to someone that I was hiring that she needed to get her doctorate when I didn’t have my doctorate.”  

Holland helped find the Feeding and Swallowing Clinic in 2013, helping those in the area with swallowing and feeding disorders. Prior to this clinic, the only one was with West Virginia University.   

She has also started working with Healthy Connections — with children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.  

“That’s one of the things that I am most proud of and most excited about in my professional journey. Just because of Huntington and it being the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, we know we have infants and children that are born with prenatal exposure to opioids,” Holland said. “So, what we’re finding is an increase in a population of children that we haven’t seen before that have speech, language, communication, feeding and swallowing problems.

“The characteristics that we’re seeing are different than what we’ve ever seen before,” Holland said. “There are a lot of children that come in with a potential diagnosis of autism, and they don’t have autism at all, but what we find is that they have a history of prenatal exposure to opioids, whether that’s been treated as they were infants, or it wasn’t.”  

Holland said the program works with helping mothers who choose to start a new life in sobriety as well as helping the children.   

Holland says one in 23 children have a feeding disorder.   

“A lot of times, we just think they’re picky eaters. You’d be surprised at the number of kids that have a feeding disorder,” Holland said.

Brittany Hively can be contacted at [email protected].