Women’s History Month – Dr. Portia Holmes Shields
Women’s History Month
Dr. Portia Holmes Shields
UDC Alum: First Woman President of Albany State University
Dr. Portia Holmes Shields was named Albany State University’s first woman president in 1996, when she joined the institution from Howard University, where she held the position of dean of the School of Education and a number of faculty and administrative posts. She served as the seventh president of Albany for eight years.
Dr. Shields earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the District of Columbia Teachers College, one of three institutions later merged to form the University of the District of Columbia. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from George Washington University, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland at College Park. Her work experiences included serving as dean of the School of Education (1993-1996) and director of Medical and Biomedical Communications, College of Medicine (1989-1993) at Howard University.
Upon her arrival at Albany State, Shields assumed the helm of an institution that had been ravaged by flood waters from the Flint River, which consumed nearly two thirds of the 204-acre campus in 1994. She led the highly successful, $153 million flood-recovery program that revitalized the Southwest Georgia institution’s physical plant and appearance. Under her leadership, the institution also grew from 3,100 students to nearly 3,700 students.
Operating from her personal mission statement of “Students First,” Shields led Albany State to achieve the third-highest retention rate among the University System of Georgia’s 34 colleges and universities, which at 83 percent follows behind only Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. Since the fall of 1996, the average SAT scores of incoming freshmen also jumped by more than 120 points.
Shields recruited the largest number of presidential scholars and honor students ever enrolled at Albany State, and added three new undergraduate programs at the institution during her tenure – bachelor’s programs in mass communication, criminal investigations and security studies, and forensic science. The new program in forensic science is the only such program in the state of Georgia.
A successful fundraiser, she was instrumental in securing an unprecedented $3-million donation from Georgia-born performing artist Ray Charles in 2002, and procured more than $25 million in external grant funds in the following academic year.
During her tenure, the lists of exemplary achievement and recognition expanded. The institution received unconditional reaffirmation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs. Two of Albany State’s degree programs also gained their initial accreditation during Shield’s administration: the bachelor’s degree in social work and the master’s of public administration.
The university operates one of only 24 science, mathematics and engineering centers in the U.S. funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It also is one of only four sites in Georgia to administer a Center for the Accomplished and Exemplary Teacher, a collaborative with the state’s Professional Standards Commission and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Dr. Shields stepped down from her post, June 30, 2005.