Board names new president-chancellor of Southern University System

FILE - An aerial photo of the F.G. Clark Activity Center, known as the 'Mini-Dome,' on the...
FILE - An aerial photo of the F.G. Clark Activity Center, known as the 'Mini-Dome,' on the campus of Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.(WAFB)
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 2:21 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2022 at 3:28 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Southern University System Board of Supervisors named the next president-chancellor of the university system on Friday, Feb. 18.

Board members selected Dr. Dennis J. Shields, who was one of five semifinalists for the position, to serve as the new president of Southern University System and chancellor of Southern University and A&M College.

Dr. Dennis J. Shields
Dr. Dennis J. Shields(University of Wisconsin-Platteville)

Dr. Shields will be leaving the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where he has served as chancellor since 2010, to succeed President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton.

Belton announced his retirement in 2021.

“I am humbled and honored by your confidence in me to take on this role at this wonderful institution of higher education,” Shields said to Southern University Board via live stream video during the meeting. “I had a remarkable and inspiring visit (to campus) and was able to spend some time with the students. I take it as a great responsibility to help continue the rise of the Southern University System.”

University officials say under Shields, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s enrollment grew 11% from 2010 to 2016. He also led successful efforts to gain approval from the Wisconsin governor and legislature to build a new $55 million state-of-the-art engineering facility as well as a $23.7 million renovation project for one of the liberal arts buildings on that campus.

“I think the selection of Dennis Shields represents our belief that he’s the best fit to lead the University following Dr. Belton,” said Edwin Shorty, chairman of the Southern University Board. “We felt that Mr. Shields comes with the right mix of qualities to further advance the University.”

Prior to his current position in Wisconsin, Shields held administrative positions in admissions at the University of Iowa College of Law, University of Michigan Law School and Duke University School of Law. He has also held a deanship and a teaching position at Phoenix School of Law and acted as the vice president for student affairs at The City College of New York.

Shields, an Iowa native, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Graceland College in 1977 a juris doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1982.

Shields will officially begin his term once a final contract is approved by the Southern University Board. His start date is forthcoming.

The other semifinalists for the position were:

  • Laurence Alexander, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • James Ammons, chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans
  • Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans
  • Kent Smith, president of Langston University in Oklahoma

The Southern University System has campuses throughout Louisiana in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport.

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