He may be a data geek, but Laurel Ridge’s retiring director of Institutional Effectiveness, John Milam, has a more footloose side than one might expect. After graduating from Handley High School – where he was student government president – he spent three years “hitchhiking around the country” before going to the “hippie” Goddard College in Vermont, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Dr. Milam, who attained his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, was an institutional researcher and a faculty member teaching a doctoral class at West Virginia University and UVA, and was the CEO and executive director of HigherEd.org Inc. before coming to Laurel Ridge in 2009.
“My main focus has been institutional research – data for higher education decision making,” he said.
Dr. Milam, who has built data apps for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) at the U.S. Department of Education, oversaw a $3.25 million U.S. Department of Labor Knowledge to Work grant at Laurel Ridge. After spending years commuting to Washington, D.C., Fairfax and Charlottesville, Dr. Milam was happy to find a job so close to his wife’s family farm in Stephens City.
“I’m going to miss the people and the service to the community that the college does,” he said about his retirement.
A musician who has written songs about competency-based education and for former Laurel Ridge President Cheryl Thompson-Stacy’s retirement, Dr. Milam will continue to work on a musical he is writing based on the Catholic monk Thomas Merton’s encounter with Tibetan Buddhism.
“Music is comic relief, it just gets you out of yourself and makes you much more in the now, in the present,” said Dr. Milam, a vegan. “I’m also looking forward to helping my wife a lot more with the cooking.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.