Award Caps Off Decades of Service for UNCG Vice Chancellor for Research

Posted on February 20, 2024

Portrait of Dr. Terri Shelton at UNCG.

Dr. Terri Shelton, vice chancellor for research and engagement at UNC Greensboro, will be honored with the ATHENA Leadership Award by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. This national honor presented by chambers of commerce and other organizations goes to those who attain the highest level of professional excellence, improve the quality of life for others in their communities, and help others realize their leadership potentially, especially women. The Greensboro Chamber will present the award to Shelton during their annual celebration on February 21.

It is a fitting tribute for the Carol Jenkins Mattocks Distinguished Professor, who has long supported Spartans under the watchful eye of UNCG’s Minerva statue, the Roman counterpart of Greek goddess Athena, both goddesses of wisdom and the arts.

More Research Made Possible

Shelton will retire on June 30 after a career known for pushing academic boundaries and furthering groundbreaking research. As a scholar, she brought in approximately $40 million in funding across her career for research and programs to improve the lives of North Carolina children and families. As vice chancellor, she has overseen more than a decade of continuous funding growth for faculty and student scientists with a 135-percent increase in the last ten years, bringing UNCG to an unprecedented $68 million in external award dollars in the 2023 fiscal year.

Dr. Terri Shelton speaks to a UNCG student at a table.
Dr. Shelton offers one-on-one advice to a UNCG student at Mentoring Monday

“As a faculty member and director of the Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships, I was always actively involved in research,” Shelton says, “But the privilege of being Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement over these years afforded me so many opportunities to learn how to support and grow the research enterprise.” She is grateful to her colleagues across the country for sharing ideas and support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Perhaps the greatest gift was to learn about and be able to support the breadth and depth of research, scholarship, and creative activity across our campus and watch our scholars in action.”

Under her leadership, students gained valuable mentorship at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They found opportunities to share their knowledge at conferences, in the greater Greensboro community, and around the world. Faculty’s research paved the way for advancements in health and wellness, economic prosperity, and community engagement.

One of Shelton’s proudest achievements is establishing Integrative Community Studies for students with intellectual disabilities, which remains North Carolina’s only four-year inclusive certificate program. She says, “We admitted our first class in 2007 and have graduated classes every year since 2011. I am so glad that students with intellectual or developmental disabilities are able to benefit from the transformative experience that higher education can provide.”

A Woman with Many Hats

Shelton’s remarkable, real-world impact extends beyond UNCG’s campus. Her 25 years of experience in pediatrics and psychiatric clinical settings and more than 75 published works about behavioral health and early childhood made her a valuable contributor to organizations focused on improving the lives of youth and family.

She helped found the NC Infant and Young Child Mental Health Association (NCIMHA). Dr. Melissa Johnson, former president of the board of directors, says, “Terri wore so many hats – clinical knowledge, research acumen, educational wisdom, knowledge of ethics and practice, and perhaps above all, leadership.  She facilitated so many aspects of our work, especially in the early days as we ‘bootstrapped’ ourselves from a group of idealistic and passionate advocates for families and young children to an effective and mature organization.”

She brought her expertise to boards of advisors and directors for other non-profits such as Voices Together, which provides music therapy to schools and individuals for building communicative and social skills. Director of Development John Mitterling credits Shelton with helping them manage their expansion statewide. That included recruiting UNCG students to conduct an ongoing study of communication and social skills in preschool-aged children at Guilford County Schools. “What Terri has done for 30 plus years is advocate for the needs of children who are underrepresented,” says Mitterling.

“Terri’s passion and compassion for mental and behavioral health, her understanding of early childhood, and her understanding of how to navigate systems such as universities, foundations, and fundraising, is a powerful combination,” says Voices Together Founder and CEO Yasmine White. “Terri is so generous with her time and with her support. She always gives 150 percent.”

“Terri’s passion for the work of early childhood development and her desire to make the world a better place for babies and families is always at the forefront,” says Mindy Oakley, executive director of the Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation who worked with Shelton on the Executive Committee for Ready for School, Ready for Life, an organization preparing Guilford County children for kindergarten. “She can quickly toggle between high level thinking and in-the-weeds detail, depending on what’s needed at any given moment.”

While her time at the University might be closing, Shelton has high hopes for future Spartans, encouraging them to seize every chance to grow their knowledge. She says, “I hope they take advantage of all the opportunities at UNCG, including the co-curricular opportunities, international programming, connecting with the community, undergraduate opportunities to participate in research, and to connect with our faculty who are exceptional mentors.”

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications 
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications; and courtesy of the Office of Research and Engagement

Student studies a lab sample with her professor in the UNCG biology lab.

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