Randy Boyd, a Knoxville businessman and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alum, assumed duties as University of Tennessee System Interim President over the Thanksgiving holiday and spent Nov. 26, his first working day in office, on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
“It seemed appropriate that I spend my first day (on the job) in Northwest Tennessee,” said Boyd, whose family has lived in Crockett and Obion counties for six generations. “I think it’s important to make sure that everybody understands across the state of Tennessee that when you’re elected president of the University of Tennessee System, you are president for all the campuses. … We want to make sure we are representing all of our campuses. So I’m excited to be here, to be back in northwest Tennessee and back in Martin.”
Boyd will serve a maximum of 24 months in the position or until a permanent candidate is found. He follows previous UT President Joe DiPietro, who stepped down from active service Nov. 21 and will officially retire next February.
“The fact that I’m only here for two years gives me a sense of urgency. There are a lot of things that we want to do, a lot of bold, transformative things that we want to accomplish, and we’re going to try to do them without waiting around,” he said.
While meeting with local media representatives, Boyd outlined several of his top priorities for his time in office, which start with leadership selection and student outcomes.
“The most important thing, if I do only one thing well, is to make sure we get great visionary leadership to take us into the next generation,” he said, referring primarily to the positions of UT System president and chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “We want to make sure we get leaders that are focused on student success. … We need to make sure that when students come with the dream of getting a degree from one of our institutions, they actually graduate with a degree. …
A second thing is that we’ve got to generate more talent for our state. … The University of Tennessee System delivers more graduates than any other enterprise in the state – 11,806 graduates last year – but we can do more. So, not only do we need to do a better job of graduating the ones that come, but we’ve got to make sure we’re bringing more (students) to our institutions. We need to be aggressive about increasing our enrollment.”
Boyd also listed increased community engagement and use of the system’s partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as priorities, as well as continuing to ensure that the UT System at large is providing service and support to all its campuses and institutions.
He sees UT Martin as a critical component in the UT System and its influence in the northwest Tennessee area, and he plans to focus on student graduation rates and increasing enrollment at the UT Martin main campus and its five educational outreach centers in order to promote economic development in the region.
“The number one driver behind companies wanting to relocate anywhere in the world is talent. So UT Martin being able to provide the talent to attract future businesses is going to be critical. The best way to produce the right talent is to have lots of communication with industry,” he said. “One of the things that UT Martin already knows is (the importance of) having lots of interactions with the chambers of commerce and businesses in the area to make sure we’re not just producing talent, we’re producing the right talent for jobs that businesses are looking for today.”
Boyd has an established history of support for higher education, beginning with the creation of the Knox Achieves program to help students in Knox County attend community colleges free of charge. This program later became Tennessee Achieves and ultimately transformed into Tennessee Promise. Boyd also worked with Gov. Bill Haslam to create the Drive to 55 campaign to enhance higher education opportunities statewide. He later served as Tennessee’s commissioner of economic and community development before running for the governor’s office earlier this year.
He feels his recent visits to all 95 Tennessee counties and established relationship with the current Tennessee legislature will be assets to his new position as leader of the UT System.
For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of University Relations at 731-881-7615.