Becoming a teacher and working in education was not always in Vance Randall’s plans, but once he got there, it was full speed ahead. Now, 45 years later, Randall’s career path is full of networking, researching, and traveling, all fueled by his passion for education policy. The EdLF professor started out as an institute teacher, joined BYU after earning his PhD, worked as a Legislative Fellow for the US Senate for Senator Orrin G. Hatch, and published research, all while parenting 11 children with his sweetheart, Kristine. His retirement last month will definitely bring a change of pace.
Growing up in Monticello, Utah, as a farm boy, Randall came to BYU with plans to become a doctor. But when he was called to be a gospel doctrine teacher in his student ward, he found his love of teaching. He used the credits from his pre-med classes to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary health education and minors in chemistry and psychology. After he started to teach in the Church Education System (CES), Randall received his master’s in community education administration from BYU. After teaching for a few more years, he decided to continue his education at Cornell University, where he earned a PhD in education administration in 1989.
Randall has fond memories of Cornell. “I loved the environment of education and intellectual growth, not to mention the campus was beautiful.” As he worked on his PhD, he discovered that while he loves teaching, he also loves research writing . At the time, his CES position didn’t encourage that type of work, so he was ecstatic to join the EdLF faculty at BYU. When Randall published his dissertation, “Private Schools and Public Power: A Case for Pluralism,” as a book, he set the foundation for his research.
Eventually, Randall served for eight years as the chair of the EdLF department. He was appointed as a newer faculty member and learned a lot from his fellow coworkers. “I loved working with the faculty. I made it a practice to go down to each office and chat with them,” said Randall.
Randall expressed the love and pride he has for his coworkers. A big takeaway from his time as chair was that “process is more important than product.” He applied this principle in his staff meetings. “Professors like to talk a lot, as we talked about a variety of issues. I let them just talk until they were through, and then we'd make a decision.” This made for longer meetings but created a culture where everyone had a voice and greater buy-in with decisions.
During his time as the chair, McKay School dean Bob Patterson approached Randall about expanding the McKay School for international students; thus, the Comparative and International Development Education program was born. The premise was that “If the grandmother in Guatemala pays a widow's mite in tithing, she has a legitimate expectation that one of her grandchildren might be able to attend BYU.” Randall and Patterson focused on bringing students from third-world countries to the EdLF program. They hoped that the knowledge students gained through the program would be beneficial for their home countries’ education systems. More than 20 international students came from Palestine, Uganda, China, and more.
In August 2005, Randall wanted to “change things up a bit” and accepted an appointment to help Senator Orrin G. Hatch with educational policy. He initially expected he’d be working on bills that would move educational policy forward. After Hurricane Katrina, his focus shifted from policy to the children being displaced by this natural disaster and federal relief funding for schools. Randall’s role included writing succinct briefs, providing expertise on issues, and giving guidance on policy proposals. Randall remembers a time when he heard that a bill he was working on was being “dropped.” He didn’t know the lingo yet and thought that “dropped” meant the bill would not be heard. Instead, he learned that “dropped” meant the bill was going to be introduced on to the Senate floor.
Randall is currently researching the history of K–12 education in the Church from 1830 to 2020. When David O. McKay was president of the Church in the 1950s, the Church opened 35 international schools. Randall is studying how these schools influenced their respective areas and will publish his findings in a book with two BYU religion professors.
After 45 years of teaching, advocating, and researching in education, Randall said he will miss his colleagues and the students he taught. The McKay School of Education thanks him for his expertise, his leadership, and the friendship he has given to many in the school during his time here.
Educators don’t always know the impact they’ve had, but in this case, we do. Read how an EdLF class and professor inspired an international relations major to travel to Tanzania and focus on education.
Writer: Megan Palmer
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922