Nancy Biggio, the new associate vice president for the University of New Orleans Graduate School, has a fondness for policy and procedures. She sees them, not only as tools to ensure the continued quality of a program, but also as a way to help steer student success.
Biggio said helping guide graduate student success involves removing potential hurdles or barriers created unintentionally by certain processes and connecting students with on-campus resources they may need.
“My role is to act as administrative oversight for all graduate programs at UNO to ensure policy and procedures are adhered to, but more importantly, to work with faculty and schools to help recruit and retain graduate students and aid in their success,” she said.
“I like to collaborate. I look forward to meeting with people and hope that people will reach out and have conversations and talk about projects, and let me know how I can help them achieve their goals.”
Biggio has 20 years of higher education experience, a portion of which was spent teaching political science. She holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Alabama.
She has spent the last decade working in academic affairs at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where she served as an associate provost.
“Although I was not impacting students directly every day … I was able to update, change, develop policy and programs which I felt benefitted even more students than I could have by working directly,” Biggio said.
“That to me is where the rewards come from, feeling as though I’m working on things that are going to make things better for the student and their experience, and make things easier for the faculty so that they can focus on their teaching and their research and their scholarship, which will benefit the student.”
Biggio said she is well-versed in higher education operations, having worked in a variety of areas, including career development, service learning, admissions, retention and global engagement, in addition to collaborating with deans and department chairs on program development, budgeting, resource allocation, faculty development and curricular revision.
As the new steward of the University’s 32 master's and nine doctoral programs, Biggio said she sees her role not only as an administrator, but an advocate and ambassador as well.
“I think my role is to try to, in some cases, provide additional resources, but also to advocate for graduate programs with administration, with leaders across campus,” Biggio said. “And try to be an ambassador for the programs out in the community with business interests and spread the word of UNO across the region and, in some cases, even broader depending on the program.”
Biggio said she was attracted to UNO’s “service-minded” mission in meeting the academic programming needs of students in metro New Orleans and serving as the city’s only public research university.
“There are opportunities to capitalize on the uniqueness of New Orleans and the uniqueness of the faculty who have chosen to be here, whether those are areas that relate to coastal engineering, naval architecture, creative writing and film, or hospitality,” Biggio said. “I was excited to be a part of something like that."
Regarding the graduate school, Biggio said there’s “untapped and unrealized potential.”
“Just as the University has worked to come back and transform in a way to meet the challenges of 2020-2021, there’s a lot of opportunity for the Graduate School to do the same,” Biggio said. “I think that a lot of people are reconsidering their personal and professional goals after the past year and a half, and UNO needs to be there to help that next wave of students in achieving their goals.
“This has been a time of strong reflection for a lot of people and that’s going to lead to the opportunity to have students further their education at whatever stage of life they are at.”
Biggio, who in her spare time, likes bike riding and baking (key lime tart is her “high-demand” dish), said she is excited to be in New Orleans. Her husband grew up in the city.
“I’m excited to be in a city that celebrates people and communities and gathering together,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of tenaciousness, determination and resilience in the people here and those are the kinds of people I like to work around.”