About the President
Nancy S. Niemi’s commitment to educational and social equity is evidenced throughout her work with universities and schools across the country, in her scholarship, and in her service in and with communities throughout her career.
She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Rochester in 1984 and began teaching middle school English and History in Horseheads, New York. She received a Master’s Degree in Education from Elmira College in 1987, writing an honors thesis on the necessity of specialized education for teachers of adolescents, as well as two other important papers: one on the development of and necessity for sexuality education for all educators and the second on the absence of discussion of the My Lai Massacre in high school history textbooks.
Dr. Niemi was elected to the Horseheads Public School Board in 1989, a role in which she served for three consecutive terms (nine years), the last of which she was elected to by the widest margin in New York State history. Her tenure on the Board included positions as Curriculum Committee Chair and Vice President, as well as representing the Southern Tier of NY State as Legislative Liaison to the New York State Department of Education, from 1995-1997.
Her interest in questions of politics, society, and power in public education led her to doctoral study at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. While a student, she taught as an Adjunct Professor of Education, creating several new classes for the School. Her doctoral dissertation was a year-long ethnographic study of a middle school, exploring the intersections of gender, education, and power, which set the stage for her career-long exploration of those dimensions.
Dr. Niemi spent seven years as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Education at Nazareth College (Rochester, NY), followed by six years as Professor and Chair of the Education Department at the University of New Haven. In New Haven, she and her colleagues secured the Department’s first national accreditation, created and launched a Sixth Year Diploma in Instructional Technologies and Digital Media Literacy, and instituted curricular reforms. They initiated the inclusion of part-time faculty into the fabric of the department, including the establishment of faculty awards for part-time teaching, development of a program of annual assessment of all part-time faculty, and reshaping part-time faculty teaching and curricular expectations.
In 2016, Niemi was named the inaugural Director of Faculty Teaching Initiatives at Yale University’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. There, she and her colleagues created the university’s first programs of faculty development, available to all faculty. in Yale College, the graduate school, and many of the professional schools. She and the Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Jenny Frederick co-led the university’s first New Faculty Teaching Academy. Niemi created and implemented communication strategies for increasing faculty exposure to research on teaching and learning, and designed many discipline-specific faculty development programs for infusing DEI work in their pedagogy.
As Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (2019-2022), Niemi led many initiatives in concert with her faculty and administrative colleagues. A singular project was the establishment of the Men of Color in Education program, one of the few in the State of Maryland designed for BIPOC male high school students, university students, and career changers who are interested in teaching. She and her colleagues also created an Office of Sponsored Research and hired UMES’s first Director of Research. Under Niemi’s leadership, the university established an undergraduate STEM degree program as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Driving Change Initiative. One of only six
institutions in the country, and the only HBCU to win this award, UMES is now at the forefront of contributing to lasting culture change on research university campuses so that undergraduate students from all backgrounds, particularly those who belong to historically excluded groups, will excel in STEM and graduate from college to become leaders in STEM.
Niemi’s inquiry and scholarship continues to center on the intersections of gender, social equity, and higher education. She has published widely on social equity in schools. Her book, Degrees of Difference: Women, Men, and the Value of Higher Education (Routledge, 2017) explored the assertion that U.S. women’s dominance in college degree completion has resulted in women having cultural and socio-economic advantages over men. She and co-author Marcus Weaver-Hightower published the Wiley Handbook of Gender Equity in Higher Education in December 2020. And in 2022, she and two colleagues (Kathy Lund Dean and Charles Fornaciari) co-authored Course Design and Assessment (Elgar). She and her colleagues Marie-Pierre Moreau and Penny Jane Burke currently edit the Bloomsbury Gender and Education: Intersectional and international perspectives series. Her journal publications cover an array of educational inquiries including the portrayal of teachers in children’s fiction, addressing sexual orientation in elementary school curriculum, and countering the invisibility of clinical educators.
Dr. Niemi has been active in leadership of professional and community organizations throughout her career, including Research on Women in Education (American Education Research Association), the Edgerton Park Conservancy (New Haven, CT), the Newtown Historical Society (Salisbury, MD), and the Friends of the Library (Horseheads, NY). She currently serves on the board of the United Way of Tri-County, and looks forward to working with many more nonprofit, corporate, and legislative partners within the Framingham, MetroWest, and New England regions.
Nancy Niemi is married to Dr. Michael Morris, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of New Haven, and writer of the education blog, University Life. She is the wildly proud mother of three children, Andrew Peckham (Hyde Park, MA), Nathaniel Peckham (Philadelphia, PA), and Anna Peckham (Oakland, CA), as well as the besotted grandmother of Miles Peckham.
President Nancy Niemi's curriculum vitae