by Judy Hill
Students have described Assistant Professor of Business Administration Scott Randolph as “encouraging,” “dedicated” and “challenging.” On March 8, he was named College of Arts and Sciences 2015-2016 Professor of the Year at a President’s High Table.
No stranger to the student-driven award process, Randolph has been nominated for the honor every year since 2012. The award itself has existed since 1959.
What does this honor mean to you?
There are two points that make me so proud to have won. First, I was nominated with four other spectacular faculty members [Sandy Koonce, Teri Longin, Greg Thorson and Patrick Wing] who have been here quite some time and are fine teachers and scholars. So to be considered worthy of that group is honor number one. And it also means that students here at Redlands understand that as an institution we truly value teaching, and even when classes are difficult—and mine are—they want that and respect that and reward it. That’s the true honor, that the students decided. What more could a professor want?
When did you first realize you wanted to become a teacher?
I think I’ve always known. Right from an early age I was kind of obnoxious. I remember to this day an unpleasant interaction with my 5th grade history teacher when I couldn’t resist correcting him. I also read voraciously as a child. And anytime I was ever in front of an audience it was the most natural thing in the world.
As well as the performance aspect, there’s also all the time invested in the one-on-one interactions.
That’s right, and right now in this stage of my life I can spend a lot of time here. My dog Margie, she’s going to love me regardless. So while, yes, I enjoy the getting up and teaching, it’s also about those interactions in the office or at a basketball game or at a dance performance. Students want to feel you are invested in them, and I am. Sometimes that means you need to be here at 8 p.m., if that’s the only time a student can meet.
Were there teachers who inspired you?
Jack Cargill, now retired from Rutgers, was the first person who made me understood that if you set high standards, students will work up to them. He set very high standards, not just for students but for himself, always returning exams in the next class for example.
And Jerome Mushkat, a historian of the antebellum at Akron, was hands down the finest classroom instructor I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. He would start a lecture by talking about a conversation with his dog that somehow would lead us into a discussion of sectarian politics in the 1850s.
Then when I was at Purdue, there were two colleagues—John Larson and Nancy Gabin—who taught me what it means to be a mentor and how to be there for your students and figure out what they need. Some students need a lot of praise while others need a lot of criticism. In the end, teaching is not about me, but about them.
How did your interest in the railroad begin?
My grandfather worked on the railroad in South Jersey, and I grew up in Metuchen, a New Jersey town on the main line from New York to D.C. But it never dawned on me that I could study it as a serious intellectual endeavor until after college when I found a book by H. Roger Grant about the Erie Lackawanna Railroad called The Death of an American Railroad. It was like a light bulb going off. He taught at the University of Akron, and there was another professor there, Keith Bryant, in a similar field. Grant left before I got there, but Keith was a great advisor, and he exposed me to the incredible research you could do.
If you’re interested in U.S. history from the 1830s to the 1980s, there’s nothing you can’t study through the lens of railroads. Labor, issues of gender and race, capitalism, jurisprudence practices, diplomacy. You can do it all through railroads. And there are also incredibly large archives that most people don’t utilize any longer. So there’s all this material.
You’re a historian who teaches in the business administration department. Explain, please.
I was hired to teach BUS 226, the Rise of American Capitalism, 1865-1932, a gateway students have to pass before they can declare a major in the department. Having a historian teaching a gateway course illustrates a commitment to the principles of the liberal arts. We’re committed to the concept that if all we do is train technocrats, they’re not going to be well equipped to deal with the world as it is. They need to learn business in a liberal arts context.
You’re a musician too, I understand.
I’m from a family of six kids, and our parents insisted that all of us engage in music somehow. It really clicked with me. Part of it was the camaraderie of being in the marching band, the concert band, the jazz band. I was a member of the New Jersey Youth Symphony, and I even got to play at Carnegie Hall.
When I started grad school in Akron, a couple of faculty invited me to jam with them, and we started playing coffee houses. It turned into a full band—the most educated band in Ohio—and we released two CDs. I played the harmonica, the accordion, the tin whistle—terribly—and drums.
Did you experience culture shock when you first came to Southern California?
In grad school we’d sit around and talk about where we absolutely wouldn’t teach. I said Florida, Texas or California, and here I am in Redlands. So I guess in a way it was a culture shock, but actually what I saw here for the first time since I left New Jersey was an area that was richly diverse, and that diversity continues to blow me away. And the student community here is really becoming representative of what the Southwest looks like.
Degrees: Ph.D. in History, Purdue University; M.A., The University of Akron; B.A., Rutgers University
Courses taught: BUS 226: The Rise of American Capitalism, 1865–1932; BUS 361: Ethical Dilemmas in Business
At Redlands since: 2011
Longest paragraph of thanks in his Ph.D. dissertation to: Margie, his 15-year-old pug Pekinese mix
Free time finds him: Grading, playing Ultimate Frisbee, biking
On his iPod: The Specials, The Bluerunners, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Steve Earle
On his nightstand: Smuggler Nation by Peter Andreas, and The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes
Favorite movie: “The first six Marx Brothers movies, hands down, game over.”