Q&A with Randy Boyd

Boyd (Knoxville ’79) is special advisor to the governor for higher education. He is chairman of Radio System Corp., which produces technology-based pet products such as Invisible Fence, and he helped start tnAchieves, a nonprofit organization that helps high school graduates attend community college free under the guide of a mentor.


How can the state achieve Gov. Haslam’s Drive to 55 goal?

We need to make postsecondary credentials more accessible to a wider group of Tennesseans. We also cannot get there by just having more traditional students go to school. About 20,000 high school students in Tennessee don’t go to college each year. If 100 percent of those now decide to go, and 100 percent of those graduate, that will result in 240,000 additional degrees. Yet, to reach 55 percent, we need 494,000. Thus, the only way we can succeed is by reaching out to our adults. There are 940,000 people in Tennessee with some college but no degree. To achieve our mission, we have to get them back to finish their degrees.


How different do you think the college experience will be because of the growing use of technology?

Technology can provide both greater access and better quality. By being able to take classes online, students will be less constrained by geography, and institutions will be less constrained by physical space. Quality improves for many reasons. First, faculty are released from doing repetitive lectures and grading and instead can have more time to engage students. Students can learn mastery over segments of material at their own individualized pace. The best experts on any subject in the world will be available to every student any time anywhere in the world.


Do universities need to make changes to better prepare students for certain sectors of the workforce? 

Many universities already are providing internships and other activities to give their students practical experiences in the community and in industry. This will continue to increase in importance.


What was your experience like as a student at UT Knoxville?

I was a commuter, and I was in a hurry. I started at 16 and graduated at 19 and worked weekends and every break so that I could pay my way through, so I don’t have many of the experiences to reflect back on that others do. I was in Air Force ROTC my first two years and had many great experiences and friends from that.


How did UT prepare you for your career?

My major was in industrial management, and learning foundational knowledge in accounting, finance, statistics, business law and marketing provided the basics I needed to get my start.