Southern University System selects new leader

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Southern University’s Board of Supervisors has chosen a new leader.

The board of trustees voted Friday to appoint University of Wisconsin-Platteville President Dennis Shields as the Southern University System’s new president and second president-chancellor.

Shields will replace President-Chancellor Ray Belton, who announced last year that he would retire this fall.

Shields, 66, spoke briefly after being selected about his time on campus in early February and his excitement about taking on the new role, The Advocate reported.

“It was a remarkable and inspiring experience to spend a few hours with the (students) and observe the leadership of this board of trustees and to really understand how much you care about this institution,” Shields said. “I consider it a great responsibility to help you continue the rise of the university system in the South.”

Governor John Bel Edwards congratulated Shields on his appointment as system president and chancellor of Southern University.

“I look forward to working with you and am confident that our students and faculty will continue to succeed under your leadership,” Edwards said in a statement.

A native of Iowa, Shields earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Graceland College before earning a law degree from the University of Iowa in May 1982. Immediately after graduating, Shields became assistant principal admissions at the University of Iowa where he helped double down on diversity. applicants for university admission. Shields 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 became dean and professor of law at the Phoenix School of Law in 2005, its first year of operation. According to UW-Platteville, Shields oversaw a first-bar pass rate of more than 90% in the school’s first class.

Shields was hired as chancellor of UW-Platteville in 2010, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion leading the way as core tenets of his leadership ideology. During Shields’ tenure, the university said it had “doubled the number of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the past 10 years.”

Shields said during his interview with Southern that his top priority in his new role will be to improve student outcomes upon graduation from college.

“I’ll tell you they probably have to be better and we really have to commit to doing better that way,” Shields said this month. “So that’s the first thing I would do. It’s not a change, it’s identifying a challenge and saying ‘OK, what is in place to deal with this now and how do we change this dynamic?’

Shields plans to schedule another visit to South Campus and begin contract negotiations with the board.

“I am humbled and humbled by the trust you have placed in me to take on this role at this wonderful institute of higher learning,” Shields told the board in a video call after the vote. “I couldn’t be happier.”