President’s Circle Featuring Dr. Shirley Biggs

Throughout Women’s History Month 2023, the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH presents brief features on a female Branch member or a family member of the Branch member.

Dr. Shirley A. Biggs, emerita faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Biggs earned an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education at Duquesne University, a master’s degree in Psychological Services and Reading at the University of South Carolina, and a doctorate of education in Language Communications at the University of Pittsburgh.  

At Pitt Dr. Shirley A. Biggs taught, conducted research, and published books and journal articles about reading education and the literacy development of students at the secondary, college, and adult levels. She has been editor of several academic journals—which include The Journal of College Literacy & Learning and The Negro Educational Review.

However, she began her career in education as a teacher at Baxter Elementary School in Homewood and Dilworth Elementary School in East Liberty. She later entered higher education by teaching for four years at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. During her stay in Columbia, she also served as a consultant and curriculum developer for 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sponsored by the Georgia-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. 

Upon her return to Pittsburgh, she simultaneously earned her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh and taught courses in Reading Education. Her early research explored how middle, high school, college, and adult students read and learn from textbooks. This led to her work as consultant to the National Center for Counseling and Instruction and the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a reading and study skills specialist. Her most recent research addresses the mentoring of adolescent children. 

In addition to her teaching and research roles in Pitt’s School of Education, Dr. Biggs provided leadership in two areas. She was the School’s Director of Affirmative Action and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. She also served as Director of Pitt Project Tutor (a program pairing Pitt students with elementary and middle school children in Pittsburgh to improve reading and math skills). 

Dr. Biggs has also served as reading consultant locally, nationally, and internationally for institutions serving students in elementary grades through high school and in post-secondary settings—from Penn Hills and Southwest Butler school districts, and Cleveland and Denver Public Schools to Wilberforce and San Jose State universities, to the University of the North (now Limpopo) and the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa. 

Dr. Biggs’ record of service includes her role as a past chair of the Youth Enrichment Services, Inc. Board of Directors. She was also a board member of Imani Christian Academy, as well as chair of its education committee. She continues to function as an executive editor of the international academic journal, The Negro Educational Review, and also as a volunteer who serves as chair of the Core/Steering Committee of middle and high school mentoring programs at the Mt. Ararat Community Activity Center (MACAC).  Dr. Biggs is a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. 

*Dr. Shirley Biggs and her daughter Cheryl Biggs are members of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH.

Ronald B. Saunders, President of Dr.Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH

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