Academia and audacity: Meet Dean Shannon Campbell


Max Correa

Shannon Campbell, dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, speaks with Dylan Timoney in Katherine Harper Hall Feb. 2, 2022.

Emily Broyles, Reporter

Shannon Campbell sits at her office table in Edwin Duncan Hall wearing thick white glasses atop light blue eyeshadow. The Missouri native is the only Black woman and dean serving on App State’s Dean Council.

“I know that I stand out. With my natural hair that I refuse to straighten, I think, you know, if you don’t like it, avert your eyes,” Campbell said. “I love it.”

Campbell started her role as dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts in July.

“I’m not here to break a barrier and be the only person in the history and in the future. My goal is to really lay a foundation so that a position like this, a leadership role, can not only be achieved by anyone with the credentials, the wherewithal, the desire, but also that there will be an environment to embrace that person, whomever they might be.”

Campbell, from a small military town in the Ozarks of Missouri, said she stands on the shoulders of those who helped her get to where she is. The first-generation college student said she was attracted to studying communication and not just telling stories of people that looked like her but of all people.

“When I grew up, there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me that were storytellers,” Campbell said. “I can remember my mother calling and saying ‘there’s going to be a Black person on TV,’ and we would all run home to see that Black person on TV. It was that rare in my lifetime.”

Campbell was naturally pulled to her high school paper and yearbook and expected to be a journalist by the time she finished college. She didn’t know about public relations but soon found a passion for the field while studying.  

“I’m a fixer by nature, and I always try to look for mutually beneficial outcomes so that major was a natural fit for sort of who I am and my values,” Campbell said. 

After receiving a bachelor’s in communication management from Missouri State University, Campbell went on to get her master’s and doctorate degrees, both in communication. She then served as a professor and associate vice president of Graduate Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver, a Hispanic-serving institution.

With a big transfer in area and type of schools, Campbell said her undergraduate alma mater “mirrors” App State in “every way,” with both being predominantly white schools. Campbell said this brings her a sort of comfortability.

“For me, it’s almost a homecoming because it’s very much like where I started,” she said.  “I have felt welcomed. I have felt supported. I have felt as though my leadership has been embraced. The same sorts of feelings and affirmations I received in Denver, I received here, and I’m proud to say that.” 

Campbell said she brings her authentic self to work every day and doesn’t “always accommodate the majority.” 

“I don’t think that there is a place on earth where administrators of color are more needed than at PWIs. We bring a perspective that is different. We bring a truth that is different,” Campbell said. “I can only view the world through my eyes, and my life experience has placed me in a different space than my white peers.” 

The authenticity Campbell values is inspired by poet Maya Angelou’s work and outlook on life, Campbell calling it “unapologetic boldness.”

“There was an audacity there, and I love that about her,” Campbell said. “I hope that people see that in me as well, that sometimes it might take you aback, like, ‘She has the audacity to think,’ and it’s, like, ‘Uh-huh I know.’”

A big part of Campbell’s audacity includes fashion.

“It’s called ‘Faux Real.’ Some things may be faux, some things may be real,” Campbell said. “I mix high fashion and really affordable fashion all the time as well. I think that’s important. I also look for a lot of designers of color.”

Along with bringing confidence into the role, Campbell said she was comfortable stepping in as dean, especially with fine and applied arts having multiple disciplines.

“That breadth and managing that breadth is something that I appreciate because I learn a lot by being an advocate for programs and disciplines that are different from my own discipline,” Campbell said. “Every day I come to work, I learn something new, and that’s critical for me. I can’t feel as though I’m being stagnant.” 

She hopes to continue hands-on learning in the college, which she says is “the best kept secret in this state.” Campbell wants every program to establish an area of distinction.

“I really look forward to creating a mission and a value statement for our college so that anyone who is looking to join us or wants to know more about us understands what really lies at the heart of who we are and what things make us unique,” Campbell said. “There aren’t a lot of colleges that look like us.” 

Campbell said students are at the forefront of her decisions in the college and hopes to connect with them more. 

“I think it’s a tragedy if a student has no idea who the dean is, and they meet them as they shake their hand as they walk across the stage to leave,” Campbell said. “I have worked really hard to make it a point to go into the colleges, attempt to meet the students … and I do the same thing with faculty.”

The self-proclaimed sneakerhead’s next steps in the College of Fine and Applied Arts include creating an advisory board at the college level and creating more community ties for students and faculty alike. 

“We are makers. We are doers. We are scholars,” Campbell said.