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GPI: Nancy Niemi - Framingham State University President

photo of Nancy niemi
Courtesy of Rochester University

By Leighah Beausoleil


Please provide a brief summary of your resume and educational background.

I started as a middle school English teacher - loved it - decided I needed to answer bigger questions, and so I went back to school. I got a Ph.D. in curriculum instruction - loved it - changed my life. I had questioned everything, and then became a professor of education. Then, I saw that being a chairperson really had let me help people even more - taught new teachers and also helped lead, and that led to helping other people learn how to teach as well. After my kids graduated from high school, I moved to New England - went to University of New Haven and then Yale as director of teaching faculty teaching initiatives, and decided I wanted to go to a public school, which is where my heart is. So I went to the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, and then answered the call up here and was very fortunate to get a position here. … I also have publications and research as well, which focus on gender and higher education and how they influence each other and what impact it has on equity.

What is it about Framingham State that compelled you to enter your name into the presidential search?

It was public and it was in New England, so those two things made me read the ad right away. But then the school was founded by Horace Mann and company and being the teacher educator that I am, I thought, “Wow, that could be a good fit.” And then the more I learned and the more I interacted once I got called for a first interview on Zoom - just the warmth and the opportunity, the camaraderie just comes through everybody's interaction, and you can't fake that. And so that really attracted me and then then it kept getting better.

Since coming to FSU, what has been your impression of the campus?

There is so much good already happening and so much possibility and people are hungry and ready to do even greater things than they already do, which is already exciting. Whether I'm talking to students or staff members or faculty members or community members, everybody wants Framingham State to succeed wildly - even more than we already have. That collective goodwill and energy to move forward is fantastic, and I've really seen that and felt it as I've been working here for the last two-and-a-half months.

What are some of the initiatives you’d like to focus on?

We need to turn around our enrollment, and we need to do it in a way that is meaningful for us. With state universities, public state universities, we all are cut initially from the same cloth. We're regional public universities that are comprehensive - we serve the region - and we can't all be the same because then there's no differentiation. And why go here when everywhere else is equally the same? We need to focus on what we do or can do very, very well or even better, programmatically, as well as student service and make sure we let folks know that - potential students, current students. So we need to do that, and there are a number of programs and possibilities that we're all working on … about how we do that. And then we also need to pay attention to who our community is outside of us. We have beautiful, robust populations that comprise our community, and we want to serve them. So the Hispanic population, Brazilian population, first-generation population - all of those people - many of those people will live in our community. They all are welcome here and we need to figure out how the students we want to serve - we can serve extraordinarily well. And so that's an initial look as to how I think we can and will move forward.

How have your friends and family reacted to your agreeing to become the FSU president?

They were very excited for me. Some of them said, “Yeah, we knew you were going to do this. You wanted to be a president and you did it. Here you are.” And others said, “Why didn't you think of this before? Nancy, this is the right place for you.” And for all the reasons I've already discussed. And many of them were just really happy that I was so happy. And I found a place where I felt like I would belong and that the campus would welcome me as much as I welcome the opportunity.

What’s something students might be surprised to know about you?

I don't know how surprised they’d be - I absolutely love to cook and bake and still do it as a kind of therapy when I've got stress, so stress baking. I love all things paper and ink by extension. Another life, I must have been or will be an artist with paper. I'm fascinated by it. And so I can't help myself when I find a bit of strange paper or ribbon - I collect it because I figure I'll do something with it.

Do you have any advice for students?

Let us help you get a great education, so you can have a great life in the way that you want to. We need to know how best to help you, and so let us do that. And come see us. Come see me, so we can do that together.



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