News

July 10, 2008

Nicole Piccione Bigg ’99 Works For Public School Reform

She handles communications, technology for Schlechty Center in Louisville

Studying government and law seemed the right undergraduate choice for Nicole Piccione Bigg ’99. She had an interest in politics and considered pursuing a career as a lawyer. However, an internship redirected her career plans.

“I interned with the Phillipsburg School District during my senior year at Lafayette,” she says. “They assigned me to help with an assessment of capacity run by the Schlechty Center. It was during this work that my interest in education policy developed. Not only did I discover a true passion, I also connected with the people who recognized and nurtured my skills.”

Bigg was hired by the Schlechty Center for Leadership in School Reform in Louisville, Ky., after graduation. In addition to putting her communication skills to work, she was asked to handle the organization’s technology needs.

“As the director of technology and communications I spend my time doing research for our associates, developing tools for clients, and developing our technology strategy,” she explains. “I continue to write, and I am also focused on developing the brand for the organization so that our name and work become more recognizable.”

The Schlechty Center works with public school leaders to transform schools from organizations that produce student compliance and attendance to ones that nurture student attention and commitment. Founded in 1988, the center works with school districts and their leaders to improve the quality of work provided to students.

“Schools have to be organized around students and the work provided to students rather than around adults and the work of teachers,” says Bigg. “One of our basic assumptions is that student attendance can be commanded, but their attention must be earned. That cannot be realized until the various levels of leadership in the system understand the urgency for change and begin to work toward becoming a learning organization. That’s where I come in.”

When it comes to collegiate education, Bigg believes that small class sizes and a strictly undergraduate focus are major advantages for students, as she found at Lafayette.

“My assigned adviser was Joshua Miller,” she says. “While he dispensed the necessary advice regarding scheduling and adapting to college life, he went above and beyond the call of duty by challenging and mentoring his students. He was able to offer time for conversation and opportunities for research that are typically reserved solely for graduate students. He helped identify and develop his students’ passions and found opportunities that matched their needs and interests.

“Dr. Miller introduced me to the work of Jonathan Kozol, which is one of the major reasons why I decided to follow this career path. Even as I was deciding to go to graduate school I continued to rely on his advice.”

Bigg received a master’s in education from Indiana University, Bloomington. She says she has remained connected to her Lafayette friends throughout the progression of her education and career.

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