Dennis J Shields JD
Dennis J. Shields has spent the majority of his career advocating for better access to higher education. Higher education, according to Shields, has long served as a bridge to the middle class for many Americans. Ensuring that this educational model is available to those who have been historically underrepresented is one way that equitable access can be achieved.
The University of Iowa is where the foundation of what would ultimately guide his future work was built. After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Graceland College, Shields entered law school at the University of Iowa College of Law, where he earned his Juris Doctor in May of 1982.
The University of Iowa College of Law offered Shields a position as Assistant Director of Admissions in 1982 following graduation. The programs and networks that he developed at this institution reached across the Midwest and nation to hundreds of colleges and universities, which expanded the pool and diversity of candidates for admissions by a factor of two.
In July 1991, Shields began work at the University of Michigan Law School, where he would serve as Assistant Dean of Admissions for the next six years. In taking over admissions operations at one of the most selective law schools in the country, Shields' goal was to align the function of the admissions process with the broader mission of the school. The policy and implementation plan was later challenged in a reverse-discrimination lawsuit (Grutter v. Bollinger) that was decided in the school's favor in the U.S. Supreme Court.
This outcome had a significant national impact on diversity in selective admissions.
Duke University offered Shields a new position at their School of Law in January of 1998, where he began work as Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid that lasted for the next seven years.
Shields took a position as Dean and Professor of Law at Phoenix School of Law in August of 2005, which began a scant two weeks prior to the beginning of a new semester. Operating out of a temporary facility, his work would ultimately result in accreditation, profitability, and a positive position in the Phoenix marketplace and community.
One of the school's greatest accomplishments during this time was the more than 90% first-time bar-passage rate of their first graduating class.
Shields ended his post-deanship sabbatical at Phoenix School of Law early to serve as the acting Vice President for Student Affairs at The City College of New York. During this nine-month period, Shields and his staff were able to change how the residence hall was incorporated into campus life, garner more funding for student activities and services, and opened a veteran's center—all of which served to validate Shields' observation that energy needed to be reinvested into student engagement and campus life.
Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education have served as a focal point at the University of Wisconsin - Platteville, where Shields has served as chancellor since 2010. The high-performing administrative networks that Shields helped foster at this institution have successfully doubled the number of students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds over the course of the past ten years.
Shields also served as the first Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group of the National Collegiate Athletics Association for Division III, which acts as another platform that has allowed his voice to be added to the national dialogue surrounding higher education in the United States.
From humble beginnings in rural Iowa, Shields' history as a champion of access to higher education has come full-circle in his role as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin - Platteville, where his dedication to student life and academic excellence continues to have lasting impacts.