Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan announced today that Portia Holmes Shields, former president of Albany State University, will serve as interim president of Tennessee State University beginning Jan. 2.
TSU’s current president, Melvin Johnson, announced in July his plans to retire on Jan. 1.
“Dr. Shields will do an excellent job leading TSU during this transition period,” said Morgan. “This is a critical time for TSU and all of higher education. Dr. Shields will provide strong leadership and quality governance to ensure TSU’s progress with accreditation re-affirmation, to enhance student success, and to prepare the campus for advancement toward the Complete College Tennessee Act.
“She brings several key characteristics that will benefit TSU in this interim period. She is a respected college leader, and she has demonstrated her ability to successfully guide a campus through a critical transition.”
Shields was chosen from a pool of candidates listed with the Registry for College and University Presidents, a national search service that assists universities and colleges around the country as they seek exceptional leadership during transition periods.
“The TBR is fortunate that Dr. Shields’ services are available at this time,” said Morgan. “Her unique experiences and excellent qualifications will enable TSU to move forward during this important transition period.”
Most recently Shields served as chief executive officer and chief academic officer of Concordia College in Selma, Ala., from November 2007 to December 2009. While there she improved academic programs and institutional effectiveness, raised campus academic standards, and enhanced the college’s financial operations.
She also helped Concordia address accreditation concerns. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges initially placed Concordia on probation for issues concerning 17 different requirements and standards. In its most recent report, SACSCOC cited only two issues remaining for the college to address.
Calling her work at Concordia “exemplary,” Kurt Krueger, president of the Concordia University System, added, “The positive effects of that work will have a lasting impact on the institution and on the people who work and learn there.”
Shields also served as the first female president of Albany State University in Georgia for nine years, from 1996 to 2005. During her tenure there, she was a driving force in rebuilding the institution devastated by major floods in 1994 and 1998. Her leadership helped raise the academic characteristics of the student body, generate the third-highest retention and graduation rates in the university system, increase the number of Presidential Scholars on campus, raise $5.3 million for the university foundation, and oversee record student enrollment.
From 1993 to 1996 Shields was dean of the School of Education at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and served as director of Medical Education and Biomedical Communications in Howard’s College of Medicine for three and a half years prior.
At her previous institutions, Shields developed a reputation for creating a student-centered environment and encouraging collaborative decision making, according to colleagues.
Shields holds a Ph.D. in early childhood/elementary education from the University of Maryland, a Master of Arts degree in education from George Washington University, and a Bachelor’s degree in education from the District of Columbia Teachers College.
With Shields as interim president, the TBR can proceed carefully and thoughtfully to advertise and fill the TSU president’s position at the appropriate time, Morgan said.
“With an institution as important as TSU is to our state and nation, we must invest the appropriate time to evaluate all our possibilities and make the best choices for TSU, its students, faculty, staff and alumni,” he emphasized. “Doing it right is more important than doing it quickly.”
Johnson was named TSU president in March 2005, serving as the seventh president in the school’s 98-year history. Johnson had previously announced his plans to step into a teaching role at the university. He was granted faculty tenure status when he was hired.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is the nation’s sixth largest higher education system, governing 45 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 27 technology centers, providing programs in 90 of Tennessee’s 95 counties to more than 200,000 students.
The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.