University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields has been named the next President of the Southern University System and Chancellor of Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
A Southern University press release on Friday said the system’s supervisory board had chosen Shields to succeed current president-chancellor Ray Belton, who announced his retirement in 2021.
“I believe the selection of Dennis Shields represents our belief that he is in the best position to lead the university after Dr. Belton,” Edwin Shorty, chairman of the Southern University System Board, said in the statement. “We felt that Mr. Shields has the right mix of qualities to move the University forward.”
Southern University said Shields thanked the board for its decision during a live stream at a meeting on Friday, according to the news release.
“I am touched and honored by your confidence in me to take on this role at this wonderful institution of higher learning,” Shields said. “I had a remarkable and inspiring visit and was able to spend time with the students. I consider it a great responsibility to help continue the growth of the university system in the South.”
A spokesperson for UW-Platteville said Shields was unavailable for comment at this time. Similarly, a Southern University System spokesperson said council selection interviews are not being held “until the final contract is executed and a start date has been established.”
“UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields is a personal friend whose advice and advocacy have served the UW system extraordinarily well. efforts to build a better university and is a dynamic leader in Wisconsin who will be greatly missed,” UW System Acting President Tommy Thompson said in a statement.
Shields has served as UW-Platteville’s chancellor since 2010. Southern University’s announcement notes that enrollment at the university increased nearly 11% between fall 2010 and fall 2016.
Enrollment data from the UW System shows that enrollment at UW-Platteville’s main campus has fallen more than 26% since the fall 2016 semester.
Southern University’s announcement also credited Shields with overseeing the approval of a new $55 million engineering facility on campus and a $23.7 million renovation project for a liberal arts building.
Shields earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Graceland College, which has campuses in Iowa and Missouri, according to a UW-Platteville biography webpage. He then graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1982.
Prior to being named Chancellor at UW-Platteville, Shields held leadership positions at Iowa College of Law, University of Michigan Law School, Duke University School of Law, Phoenix School of Law and the City College of New York.
UW-Platteville notes that Shields has placed issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education at the forefront of his efforts. UW system enrollment data shows that the number of students listed as “underrepresented minorities” nearly doubled at UW-Platteville between 2010 and 2018.
According to the outcome of Shield’s contract negotiations with the Southern university system, his departure would mark the seventh time the UW board has had to launch a search for a new chancellor since 2018.