Ukpolo is most known for his efforts in restoring SUNO to operation after Hurricane Katrina, specifically his role in obtaining funds for SUNO's recovery, including $44 million for student housing, $32 million for classroom buildings, and various grants for other academic purposes. In 2012 the Carnegie Corporation selected Ukpolo as one of 45 naturalized citizens of the United States for Carnegie's Americans by Choice award.
Ukpolo came to the United States at age 23 as a student at the University of Maryland at College Park from which he received his bachelor's degree. To finance his education, he worked in a restaurant washing dishes and drove taxicabs in the District of Columbia. He received his master's degree and Ph.D. from American University in the nation's capital. From there he steadily climbed through various assignments and challenges to the chancellorship at SUNO. He is thought to be the first native-born Nigerian to head a university in the United States.
Ukpolo's academic-administrative posts before becoming SUNO's seventh chancellor were in California and Tennessee. An economist, Ukpolo serves on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Committee on Economic and Workforce Development.
At SUNO, Ukpolo has demonstrated a knack for working with various types of people, his name being frequently in the news in the Greater New Orleans Area because of his efforts to remedy the damage to SUNO's campus by Hurricane Katrina. His efforts to rebuild included his leading a group of prominent local, state, and federal officials on a tour of the campus. The Times-Picayune, in an editorial on 2009 March 19, praised Ukpolo and U.S. Representative Joseph Cao in their efforts to secure funding for restoration of SUNO's campus. Ukpolo also sought to protect the jobs of up to 50 employees who would be laid off if SUNO had to accommodate a $3 million reduction in state appropriation amid the economic downturn in 2009. Amid tough decisions Ukpolo can be counted on to do "the right thing for SUNO" according to Tony Clayton, chair of the Board of Supervisors for the Southern University System.
As newly instituted standards for admission of students raised the expectations on new students, in 2011 SUNO successfully resisted efforts to merge with the nearby University of New Orleans. Early in 2012 Ukpolo continued to seek restoration of 13 remaining buildings rendered unusable by Katrina. He embarked on plans to recruit more students on an international basis.
Ukpolo is married to Dr Fawn Teresa Ukpolo (born 1963), who served as director of the Laboratory School at Southeastern Louisiana University from 2006 to 2013 before becoming director of the doctoral program in executive leadership at Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge. The couple has three children.
- The surname Ukpolo is pronounced without the "k" which appears in the spelling.
- Harold Clark Jr., Nigerian native, Dr. Victor Ukpolo, secures $44m to construct student housing for New Orleans University. Fox 8 live announcement, featuring Janet Napolitano on WVUE-TV New Orleans Channel 8 Fox.
- Pope, John (2012-07-09). "Carnegie honors SUNO leader". Times-Picayune. pp. B1, B4. Retrieved 2012-07-16. The notice of the 2012 awards appeared in the New York Times on July 4 ("45 naturalized Americans celebrated in Carnegie Corporation 4th of July public service ad". Carnegie Corporation. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-07-16 ).
- From Dishwasher to Vice Chancellor: US university appoints Nigerian as Its Vice Chancellor. SUNO Faculty Handbook, frontispiece (accessed 2009 March 6).
- Victor Ukpolo (2002), Population growth and economic growth in Africa, Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. 18 (2002), Issue 4, pp. 315-329, DOI 10.1177/0169796X0201800402. Victor Ukpolo (2004), AIDS epidemic and economic growth: Testing for causality, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Volume 39 Issue 3, pp. 169-178, DOI 10.1177/0021909604049970. N. R. V. Murthy & Victor Ukpolo (1994), Aggregate health care expenditure in the United States: Evidence from cointegration tests", Applied Economics, Volume 26, pp. 797-802; cited in Penn State Citeseer.
- Ukpolo biography on the SUNO web site.
- New Orleans’ HBCUs Find Hope - Southern University N.O. in the Black Collegian. Larry Abramson, Universities struggle to recover in New Orleans, report on National Public Radio.
- John Pope & Katy Reckdahl, Obama aides vow to speed recovery, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 March 6, pp. A1, A9. Allen M. Johnson Jr., 2 Cabinet members tour N.O., vow to boost recovery, Advocate (Baton Rouge), 2009 March 6.
- Drier, higher ed, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 March 19, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B6.
- Jan Moller, LSU chief says cuts will undo progress: He urges revamp of state budget, Times-Picayune, 2009 April 22, p. A2.
- Clayton, quoted by Stephanie Grace, "Jefferson grip on SUNO isn't what it once was" in Times-Picayune, 2009 June 2, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5.
- Pope, John (2012-02-06). "More challenges ahead for SUNO". Times-Picayune (Metro Edition). pp. A1, A5. Photographs by Ted Jackson.
- Freese, David (2013-08-01). "Director of Southeastern Lab School resigns after seven years of leadership". Daily Star (Hammond, Louisiana). pp. 1A, 3A. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
- Constance Woods, Fawn Ukpolo heads Southeastern Lab School (accessed 2009 March 7). See also Fawn Teresa Ukpolo's Southeastern Laboratory School bio.