Dr. Shields Bids Farewell to Tennessee State University - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Dr. Shields Bids Farewell to Tennessee State University

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Dr. Portia Shields speaks at Tennessee State University graduation. Dr. Portia Shields speaks at Tennessee State University graduation.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On December 31st Dr. Portia Shields will end her tenure at Tennessee State University. She was hired as the interim President in January 2011 to turn the school around. Saturday, during the fall commencement, many said Shields left the school better than she found it.

Graduation is a day to celebrate a student's accomplishments; a day when their struggles come into perspective and hope for the future is intensified.

"We graduate together today my friends. And while we are leaving TSU, TSU will always be with us," Dr. Shields told the graduates.

In some ways Shields is also graduating.

"It's a bitter-sweet moment because I didn't expect to come and fall in love with this institution, but I did," she said.

When Dr. Shields arrived in January 2011 enrollment was flat, the school's accreditation was in jeopardy, among other problems. With her boisterous charisma she tackled some of the University's most pressing challenges, but Shields faced criticism about some of her decisions. Her most vocal opposition came when the University cut several majors due to low enrollment.

"But there were ...some changes that we needed to make and we made them," Dr. Shields explained. "I made them with respect for everyone and nobody lost a job. But we did what we had to do. Now the school is ready to move forward."

In the last two years, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) restored the University's full accreditation, enrollment reached an all-time high of nearly 9,000 students and Shields raised more than $3 million for scholarships.

Despite that, Shields says she's most proud of the relationships she was able to forge with students. Her contract stipulated that she couldn't be considered for the permanent position. After leaving TSU, she plans to stay in Nashville, do some consulting work and rest.

The Tennessee Board of Regents named Dr. Glenda Glover the new president of TSU. Glover will begin on January 2, 2013.


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