Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan announced Thursday that Portia Holmes Shields will serve as interim president of Tennessee State University beginning Jan. 2.
Shields will begin the job as Melvin Johnson, TSU president since 2005, steps aside Jan. 1 after a tenure that met with both success and criticism from high-ranking university faculty and alumni.
Currently, TSU is facing the possible loss of its accreditation via the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
“Dr. Shields will do an excellent job leading TSU during this transition period,” Morgan said in a release. “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.
Shields, the former president of Albany State University in Georgia, 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 nationwide as they seek leadership during transition periods.
Most recently, Shields served as chief executive officer and chief academic officer of Concordia College in Selma, Ala., from November 2007 to December 2009. At Concordia, she improved academic programs and institutional effectiveness, raised campus academic standards and enhanced the college’s financial operations, according to the TBR.
Shields 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.
In addition, Shields served as the first female president of Albany State (from 1996 to 2005). During her tenure, she helped increase the number of Presidential Scholars on campus, raised $5.3 million for the university foundation and oversaw 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 at Howard’s College of Medicine for three and a half years prior.
Johnson, TSU’s seventh president, previously announced his plans to step into a teaching role at the university. He was granted faculty tenure status when he was hired.