2020 UNCG NOMINEE – Dr. Stephen Sills

Dr. Stephen Sills

Dr. Stephen Sills (The Center for Housing and Community Studies) is the 2020 UNC Greensboro nominee for the UNC System’s Holshouser Award.

Sills’ academic research centers around housing, health, and labor – especially pertaining to minorities and immigrants.

As a lead principal investigator, he has been awarded more than 60 external grants and is co- principal investigator on dozens of others.His work has largely been community-engaged and collaborative, leading to real impact at the individual, neighborhood, institutional, and governmental levels in policy changes and new practices. His numerous Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) studies across North Carolina range from an analysis of community and family resilience in High Point, to a report on fair housing in Surry, Yadkin, Stokes, and Davie Counties, to a study of the quality of life in Southern Appalachia.

Professor of sociology and director of the UNCG Center for Housing and Community Studies, Sills has served on the UNCG faculty since 2006. His education impact work goes back further.

“I have been an educator since 1991, teaching at all levels from kindergarten to university,” he says. “I have taught in rural North Carolina, inner-city Seattle and Detroit, and abroad in Taiwan. I have taught in a variety of institutions such as vocational high schools, English language institutes, community colleges, and traditional university settings. The common thread throughout these experiences has been my commitment to providing students with a comfortable setting in which they may explore concepts and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are applicable to solving current social issues.”

An innovative educator, he has created several experiential and high-impact opportunities for students at UNCG. An example was an International Service-Learning Study Abroad Program titled “Global Servants,” which allowed students to conduct applied research in Taiwan and the Philippines. The students studied global labor migration first-hand while conducting ethnographic work with factory workers and returning migrants.

Sills himself was a UNCG undergraduate in the early 1990s, when he earned his BA in Spanish. He later earned his master’s and PhD in sociology from Arizona State University.

He grew up in a family that was engaged in social justice issues. His father was director of a number of non-profit agencies including Greensboro Urban Ministries and FaithAction International House. His mother was a counselor who worked with at-risk youth. “They both instilled in me a need to serve and to work on addressing issues in our community and to apply my research and methods skills toward making an impact. Now though, my motivation really comes from the people in the organizations and communities with whom I partner. I look for answers to the questions my community partners are asking whether it is by gathering and analyzing data, researching best practices and policies, or demonstrating efficacy of a program or intervention. Most of these research questions are related to exploring root cases of inequality and disparate outcomes.”

Real-world impact is key to his work. For example, the topic of evictions has been a focus in recent years.

“In 2016, I began to research the volume and dynamics of evictions in North Carolina. While other jurisdictions across the country had begun to consider ‘right to counsel’ ordinances in eviction cases, tenants in North Carolina seldom even appeared in court and lacked legal representation when they did appear,” he says. “I conducted interviews with individuals who had been evicted one-year prior, finding that landlords used eviction proceedings as a collections tool, to move out long-term tenants and make way for higher rents, and that many tenants were unable to pay full rent due to high utility bills resulting from the poor conditions of properties. I also found that evictions lead to increased financial burdens for both landlords and tenants and often homelessness of displaced occupants.”

With funding from a UNCG P2 grant, the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, the United Way of Greater Greensboro, and the Ford Foundation, he began to design a series of interventions to address the high rate of evictions in Greensboro and to reduce the displacement of families to prevent homelessness.

His work, as it provides research opportunities for many current students, is helping many people in our society.

Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

Holshouser Award Details


The Public Service Award was created in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by faculty of the University. Faculty of any of the 17 constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina are eligible. At its August 2013 meeting, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a resolution to rename the award after Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr.


  • Faculty members of any of the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina are eligible.
  • Sustained, distinguished, and superb achievement in university public service and outreach, and contributions to improving the quality of life of the citizens of North Carolina.
  • The creativity and impact of a nominee’s achievements are of a magnitude that greatly exceeds the normal accomplishments of a productive faculty.


The UNCG Committee for the Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service is currently soliciting nominations for the 2023 Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service. Deadline for nominations September 1, 2023.

The Public Service Award was created in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by faculty of the University. Faculty of any of the 17 constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina are eligible.

Selection Criteria:

• Faculty from any of the 17 institutions within the University of North Carolina System are eligible.
• Nominees must demonstrate sustained, distinguished, and superb achievement in University public service and outreach, reflecting a commitment to improving the quality of life in North Carolina or elsewhere.
• The nominee’s achievements must exhibit a level of both creativity and impact that greatly exceed the normal accomplishments of a productive faculty or staff member.
• The selection committee considers long-term achievements, special projects with extraordinary impact, and collaborative efforts.

If you have questions, please contact provost@uncg.edu.


Nominations may be made by faculty, staff, students, administrators or alumni. There is an online submission form for nominations which should include:

  1. A brief statement giving the reasons the faculty member is being nominated in relation to the parameters of the award and public service.
  2. A copy of nominee’s current vita.

The committee is made up of representatives from each of the academic units:

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Bryan School of Business and Economics
  • School of Education
  • School of Health and Human Sciences
  • College of Visual and Performing Arts
  • School of Nursing
  • Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering

Members who serve on the committee are nominated by the Faculty Senate Committee on Committees and appointed by the Chancellor to serve a three-year term. There are two ex officio members (University Relations and Office of Research and Economic Development) and one Administrative Coordinator (provided by the Provost). The Committee recommends a nominee to the Chancellor and Provost. The Chancellor and the Provost make the nomination to the Board of Governors.

Link to 2023-2024 Committee


Click for a .pdf file of past award recipients.