Southern University’s new president and chancellor, Dennis Shields, is heading to Baton Rouge with the goal of improving the system as a whole.
Now seen as the man who will lead Southern into the future, Shields brings decades of legal and higher education experience to Louisiana.
Born and raised in Iowa, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Graceland College before earning a law degree from the University of Iowa in May 1982.
After graduating, Shields became assistant director of admissions at the University of Iowa, where he helped double down on the diversity of applicants for admission to the school.
He held the same positions at the University of Michigan in 1991 and at Duke University in 1998.
After more than 20 years in admissions work, Shields assumed a different role in August 2005 as Dean and Professor of Law at the Phoenix School of Law in its first year of operation.
In his most recent role as chancellor and 14th chief executive of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville since 2010, he won the favor of many colleagues and helped improve outcomes for the neglected.
“UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields is a personal friend whose counsel and advocacy have served the UW system extraordinarily well,” said UW System Acting President Tommy Thompson. “He is highly respected by his colleagues, has worked tirelessly to build a better university, and is a dynamic leader in Wisconsin who will be sorely missed.”
According to data from the UW system, registrations for “underrepresented minorities” increased 63% from Shields’ arrival in 2010 until just before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019.
The number of students classified as “of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds” doubled during Shields’ time as chancellor at UW-Platteville.
Shields also served as the inaugural chair of the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for Division III, dedicated to addressing critical issues related to the lack of ethnic and gender diversity within the league. Division III Athletics.
In another act of athletic support, Shields stepped in to provide color commentary for several UW-Platteville men’s basketball games.
“I know he was thrilled to do this,” UW-Platteville athletic director Dr. Kristina Navarro said in a February 2021 post on the university’s athletics page. “He is such a fan and supporter of the student-athlete experience. It’s positive for the whole university to see the livestream and to see the chancellor on the sidelines, knowing who the players are and actively supporting their efforts on the pitch and in the classroom.”
Committed to the idea of academic and athletic success, Shields also helped provide a scholarship for students at his former high school in Iowa – Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa – a pipeline to attend UW Platteville.
Called the “Chancellor Dennis Shields Johnston High School Scholarship”, it is offered to Johnston High School students who “demonstrate financial need”.
While the date of Shields’ next visit to Baton Rouge has yet to be announced, officials on the University of the South’s board of supervisors see him as the right man for the role of president-chancellor.
“I think the selection of Dennis Shields represents our belief that he is in the best position to lead the university after Dr. Belton,” said Edwin Shorty, chairman of the Southern University System Board, in announcing his hire. “We felt that Mr. Shields has the right mix of qualities to move the University forward.”
Current Southern President-Chancellor Ray Belton’s contract ends on June 30.
Shields will officially begin his tenure once a final contract is approved by Southern University’s Board of Supervisors.