After serving as Dean of U of A’s Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for the past nine years, Todd Shields will step down from the role on August 12.
Shields has accepted a new role to lead Arkansas State University as Chancellor.
“I cannot thank the U of A enough for allowing me to serve as dean for the past nine years and for making Fulbright College my home for more than 27 years,” Shields said . “Not only did I build most of my professional life here, I started my family here, raised my children here, made lifelong friends here, and have been happier than I can express.”
“Although it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter of my career, know that Fulbright College, the U of A and Fayetteville will always be an indelible part of my heart,” he added.
As Dean of Fulbright College, Shields represented and provided strategic vision and leadership for the largest college at the U of A, comprised of more than 8,700 students, three schools and 16 academic departments. Fulbright College also provides the bulk of the university’s core curriculum and offers degrees in the fine arts, humanities, science and social sciences.
“Todd has been an unwavering leader for Fulbright College over the past nine years and has provided a consistent vision that has helped bring the college to where it is today,” said Interim Provost Terry Martin. “I wish him nothing but the best in this new endeavor and I know he will continue to be successful.”
Shields is known for practicing servant leadership and putting people first. He mentored and developed the College’s Senior Leadership Team, which oversees more than 650 full-time faculty and educators, more than 700 teaching and research assistants, and hundreds of staff.
“Dean Shields is an exceptional and innovative administrator, scientist, researcher, fundraiser and a true advocate for all,” said Yvette Murphy-Erby, vice chancellor of the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“His legacy is as great as his leadership – differentiating and impactful. His absence will certainly be felt. Arkansas State’s win is a huge loss for the U of A,” she added.
At Fulbright College, Shields managed a teaching budget of more than $75 million and a research budget of approximately $19.5 million. He also led the fundraising and management of more than $284 million in endowments and more than $50 million in legacies.
His most notable accomplishments as dean include overseeing the founding of the U of A’s School of Art in 2017 following an unprecedented $120 million donation from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The School of Art is the first and only accredited art school in Arkansas.
This gift was part of the more than $220 million raised under Shield’s tenure for Fulbright College during the U of A’s recent capital campaign, Campaign Arkansas. He also secured $90 million in software and equipment gifts for programs across Fulbright College.
“Dean Shields’ leadership and guidance has enabled the friends and supporters of Fulbright College, through initiatives such as the School of Art and the Windgate Art and Design District, to create an enduring legacy of support for our students, faculty, campus and region Building Northwest Arkansas,” said Melody Kouchehbagh, the college’s senior director of development and external relations.
“He is an accomplished advocate for relationship building and raising funds for higher education, always making sure the investment is positive for everyone involved,” she added. “Dean Shields’ leadership and guidance will be difficult to replace. I learned so much working for him and observing his servant leadership style.”
Kouchehbagh also welcomed Shields’ creation of the college’s first Dean’s Emergency Student Retention Fund, which primarily provides immediate, one-time stopgap measures to retain undergraduate students who would otherwise be unable to continue their education. In addition to emergency funds, it also matches student recipients with advisors who work with them to ensure success in all aspects of their education.
To date, the fledgling fund has awarded more than $17,000 and helped 22 students.
Since joining the U of A in 1994, Shields has also served as Professor, Associate Director of the J. William Fulbright Institute of International Relations, Chair of the Department of Political Science, Director of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society. Interim Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and Dean of the Graduate School and International Education.
He has published dozens of journal articles and is the co-author or co-editor of several books. His research focuses on public opinion, campaigning, elections, and political psychology, and he has contributed more than $25 million in grants and research support to the U of A as principal or co-principal investigator.
“I have had the good fortune and blessing to work with Todd Shields for many years,” said John R. English, vice chancellor of the Department of Research and Innovation, who also called Shields a dear friend.
“Dean Shields, other deans, and I have worked closely on topics such as designing and launching the data science program, investing together in research teams, and finding campus solutions for great opportunities. I would say he was one of the critical ‘cogs’ of progress for this campus as dean,” he added.
“He will be sorely missed by so many people and I think if we had a ‘Todd Shields Fan Club’ I would run for president,” English said. “Thank God to my dear friend and trusted colleague Todd Shields.”
In addition to his impressive research record, Shields has been widely recognized for his commitment to student success, excellence in teaching and research, mentorship, sustained growth, and diversity.
“Dean Shields has been a relentless believer and supporter of doing whatever the college can do to help our students reach their potential,” said Deborah Korth, director of student success at Fulbright College and faculty member in general education at the U of A Provost.
According to Korth, Shields was instrumental in creating the Fulbright College Student Success Team and she worked closely with him to implement several key student retention programs, including Destination Arkansas Blackboard Assignment to provide all freshmen and undergraduates with an online onboarding opportunity offer exchange students; life strategies and career awareness courses to support student achievement; and the Instructor Coach Program, which employs instructors who also provide academic coaching to students.
“Dean Shields created a culture of student achievement at Fulbright College that permeates everything we do. He will be missed tremendously and the students he will work with in the future will be lucky to have him in their corner,” Korth said.
Additionally, Shields’ service extends beyond higher education. He was recently appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the newly established Arkansas Commission on the Status of Women, where he serves as co-chair of the Research and Writing Subcommittee.
“I’m so proud to have served as the dean of Fulbright College,” Shields said. “It has been an honor to lead such phenomenal educators, teachers, staff and researchers who are doing amazing things to improve our community and the world beyond, while continuing to give their all for our students.”
“Please know that I will do everything in my power to ensure a smooth transition for U of A and Fulbright College and until new leadership is announced the College will be in excellent hands as our Associate Deans will continue to lead the way forward. he added. “Fulbright College has an incredible future ahead of it!”
An interim dean and a timeline for finding a new permanent dean of Fulbright College will be announced later this summer.
This story also appeared in the Fulbright REVIEW digital publication.