Victor Ukpolo, Ph.D. was officially appointed chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans on January 7, 2006 by the Southern University System’s Board of Supervisors. Dr. Ukpolo, formerly the Southern University System’s Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, previously served as associate vice president for academic affairs at California State University in Los Angeles. He also served as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs/special assistant to the chancellor for academic research for the Tennessee Board of Regents. He started his career as an assistant professor of economics at Austin Peay State University, where he also held an administrative post as executive assistant to the President
Dr. Ukpolo leads SUNO during a critical time in which all 11 buildings comprising the main campus remain uninhabitable post-Katrina. In the aftermath of the hurricane, he launched an aggressive marketing and reorganization campaign, which included the introduction of four innovative online programs to attract displaced students. By working through the legislative process, Dr. Ukpolo recently secured a definitive timeline from the Louisiana Office of Facilities, Planning & Control to reconstruct the main campus by Fall 2009 with 50% of the work being completed by 2008. The Health & Physical Education Building—the least damaged of the 11 buildings—is scheduled to open in Fall 2007.
The restructured campus will include two brand new buildings: 1) a technology center that will house our e-learning, audio/visual and Internet technology departments, and 2) construction of a state-of-the-art student housing facility—the first such facility in SUNO’s history— an amenity that will greatly assist our students’ dire need for affordable housing in the Greater New Orleans area and position SUNO to attract students from across the globe. Working with various local, state and federal legislators, Dr. Ukpolo secured a $44 million one-percent interest loan from the U.S. Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing Program that will allow SUNO to construct the student housing facility.
During his first semester as chancellor, an impressive 2,100 students returned to the University in Spring 2006—SUNO’s first post-Katrina semester—opposed to earlier projections of 1,200 to 1,500, holding classes on a temporary campus comprised of 45 modular trailer facilitates that were constructed by FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. SUNO is one of the few hurricane-impacted institutions that continues to experience impressive student population growth. The Fall Semester 2006 featured a student population of 2,314, and the Fall Semester 2007 posted a student enrollment figure of 2,634, making SUNO the fastest growing four-year institution of higher learning in the region.
Recognizing the important role institutions of higher learning can play in making communities better, Dr. Ukpolo offered SUNO’s expertise in planning the historic, post-Katrina New Orleans Crime Prevention Summit. He was among several SUNO professors who made key scholarly presentations during this cornerstone event. As a result of the Crime Summit, Dr. Ukpolo keenly capitalized on yet another opportunity to improve New Orleans by forming a joint partnership with the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office to provide educational opportunities for the agency’s employees and inmates under the supervision of Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman.
Under his leadership, alumni giving and participation has increased to unprecedented levels through his regular “Chats with the Chancellor,” in which he travels to various cities to meet with alumni. Fundraising for SUNO is at an all-time high with major gifts donated to the institution by several major organizations and corporations. Looking toward future generations, Dr. Ukpolo established the Chancellor’s Emerging Leadership Program at Sophie B. Wright Charter School whereby eligible middle school students will earn an opportunity to attend SUNO on a full scholarship. Furthermore, an innovative dual enrollment program allows qualified high school students to earn college credits at SUNO.
Programs such as these demonstrate Dr. Ukpolo’s care, commitment and concern for many of SUNO’s students, who, like him, are the first in their families to attend college. His student-centered philosophy is designed to encourage students to neither make nor take any excuse in their quest towards pursuing their educational goals.
Dr. Ukpolo, a native of Nigeria, is a graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., and received master of arts and doctorate of philosophy degrees from The American University, Washington D.C. As an economist, Dr. Ukpolo serves as a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Committee on Economic and Workforce Development.