GENESEO — The third of five SUNY Geneseo Presidential Candidates steered three open forums this week with thoughtful, eloquent ideas for key issues facing the college and offered a solid vision for the future.
Dr. George Shields, Dean of Arts & Sciences at the prestigious Bucknell University, has led major initiatives there to ensure fairer teaching loads and compensation for the faculty, and developed programs to increase the diversity of the faculty. He founded the MERCURY consortium that has increased the quantity and quality of undergraduate research in computational chemistry throughout the country, and has been a major driving force in providing undergraduate research experiences to a diverse group of students.
“When he makes a decision, he likes to make sure everyone understands why said decision was made,” said Dr. Becky Glass, Executive Assistant to the President at Geneseo. “It’s about transparency and getting everyone involved.”
Dr. Glass added that at Friday’s faculty forum, Shields was asked for his views on professional schools, and their relationship to liberal arts. “As Dean of Bucknell’s College of Arts and Sciences, Shields believes in a well-rounded, interdisciplinary approach to education.”
In his response, he pointed to a recent study by the AAC&U and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, which shows that that liberal arts disciplines prepare graduates for long-term professional success, compared to students with degrees primarily based in specialized study. The report argues that “whatever undergraduate major they may choose, students who pursue their major within the context of a broad liberal education substantially increase their likelihood of achieving long-term professional success.”
“Geneseo is a gem,” said Shields, when asked why he wants to serve as the next president. Coming from a private school background, Shields noted that SUNY Geneseo, a public institution, appealed to his sense of “social justice.” He praised Geneseo’s academic rigor and selectivity, as well as its affordability and accessibility.
Dr. Shields grew up in Marcellus, New York, earned a B.S. in Chemistry at Georgia Tech in 1981, and then enrolled in the master’s program at Tech with the intention of becoming a high school teacher. He completed his M.S. in Chemistry in May of 1983, and his Ph.D. in March of 1986.
If chosen to succeed long-time President Christopher Dahl, Shields imparted three goals for the university: to ensure sound financial footing, increased diversity, and continuous support for the teacher-scholar model.
According to a 2007 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), “teacher-scholars are committed to high-quality undergraduate education, pursue an active program of research and scholarship, and are presumed to enliven and enrich their teaching and the student experience by incorporating insights from their own research into their instructional activities, student advising, and related work.” In other words, professors that care as much about their students as the subject matter they profess.
On the surface, the terms professor and teacher seem interchangeable, synonymous even. The difference apparently lies in their relationship to research. While a teacher’s primary duty is to instruct students and help them to succeed, not to publish academic articles, or to contribute to scholarly debate. Ideally, these responsibilities coalesce in a college-level learning environment. According to Shields, SUNY Geneseo accomplishes this with their top-notch faculty, and he aims to continue this tradition of success.
Over the course of his nearly thirty-year career in academia, Shields has held a panoply of leadership positions due, in part, to his inclusive leadership philosophy.
SUNY Geneseo has two more presidential candidates lined up to visit after Thanksgiving break. The fourth candidate will be on campus for more open forums December 3 and 4. Community members are welcome to attend the Big Tree Inn from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 4.
PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. George Shields. Photo from Bucknell.edu.