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Dennis J. Shields has been the University of Wisconsin-Platteville since 2010-11, and during that time he led the university to tremendous growth in students, programs and facilities.
Chancellor Shields has kept a keen eye on the current state of higher education and is committed to keeping UW-Platteville a leading student-focused university. He has guided the campus to record enrollment, peaking in 2013-14 at nearly 8,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students.
Most recently, he piloted an impressive effort to gain legislative and gubernatorial approval to build a new $55 million state-of-the-art engineering facility on campus as well as a $23.7 million renovation project for Boebel Hall. Sesquicentennial Hall, slated for construction to begin within the next three years, will replace engineering building Ottensman Hall, which was built in 1966. The Boebel Hall renovation is scheduled to begin in 2019. Those two projects, plus a $15.3 million Williams Fieldhouse expansion, will give UW-Platteville more than $93 million in upcoming growth and improvements that will transform the campus.
Additionally, Chancellor Shields led the construction of two residence halls, one with a dining facility. They were built to accommodate the influx of students who have enrolled during his tenure and raise the on-campus residential availability to 3,700 beds.
Chancellor Shields is also at the forefront of the collaborative integration of UW-Platteville with new branch campuses, UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County and UW-Platteville Richland. The merger with the former two-year colleges was approved by the Higher Learning Commission on July 1, 2018.
He has championed the faculty and staff by working with all aspects of shared governance, ensuring the university remains committed to the core mission of providing an affordable and accessible education.
Chancellor Shields is committed to diversity initiatives on campus. In 2012, he established a chief diversity officer position, along with a new Division of Diversity and Inclusion. Since 2012, the division has overseen a number of initiatives to support an inclusive community, such as establishing the University Bias Incident Team, founding the Wright Center for Non-Traditional and Veteran Students, re-envisioning the Patricia A. Doyle Center for Gender and Sexuality, and providing pre-college programs to students from at-risk populations. Student outcomes for these groups have improved markedly during Chancellor Shields’ tenure.
He has been actively involved in the national dialogue around diversity and inclusion in higher education. Chancellor Shields has served as chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group of the National Collegiate Athletics Association, Division III. Over the past decade, the racial and ethnic diversity of students at UW-Platteville more than doubled. In fall 2016, racial and ethnic minorities made up nearly 10 percent of the student body, compared to less than 6 percent in fall 2009. In addition, the profile of racially and ethnically diverse students has shifted from being primarily African-American to include a higher proportion of people who identify as Hispanic or Asian.
Chancellor Shields is active with a number of organizations that play a key role in higher education. He is serving on the Board of Trustees of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). He is also active in the AASCU Millennium Institute that is dedicated to developing the next generation of higher education leaders by serving on its steering committee and teaching at its annual Summer Institutes and serving as a mentor to Millennium Protégés. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Graceland University, his alma mater, in Lamoni, Iowa, as well as several of that board’s critical leadership committees.
The University of Iowa College of Law recently recognized Chancellor Shields with its annual Alumni Achievement Award, noting his long years of successful leadership in higher education. Among his achievements was leading the Phoenix School of Law to American Bar Association provisional accreditation in its first attempt at accreditation and the remarkable bar pass rate for its inaugural class (over 905 first time bar pass rate). Also significant is his involvement as assistant dean of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School with the development and implementation of its admission policy that led to the landmark 2003 case Grutter vs. Bollinger decided in the law school’s favor by the United States Supreme Court.
Chancellor Shields has a remarkable life story, which began in an orphanage, later growing up in foster homes. His upbringing inspires him and is an inspiration to aspiring students.
An Iowa native, Chancellor Shields earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from Graceland College in 1977 and his Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1982. Immediately prior to becoming chancellor at UW-Platteville, he served as acting vice president of Student Affairs at the City College of New York – City University of New York. He has held administrative positions at the Phoenix School of Law, Duke University School of Law, the University of Michigan Law School, and the University of Iowa.