National Rural Education Association Official Podcast

S03E04 – Interview with President Randy Boyd of the University of Tennessee System on Rural Challenges

Episode Summary

For this episode, we welcome President Randy Boyd of the University of Tennessee (UT) System to the podcast. We begin by discussing the Grand Challenges for UT. President Boyd shared that the University of Tennessee System is a land grant institution with representation across the state. Many of the challenges facing Tennessee are multidisciplinary challenges. UT is known for education, research, and engaging with the state, and serving its citizens. President Boyd states that complex problems can be resolved in collaboration with the university regardless of the time or resources needed. He states that collaboration and partnership are the strongest resources UT can provide. For example, drug abuse and misuse are complex issues that UT can offer methods for addressing real-life issues. Through collaboration, these issues can be addressed. Mr. Boyd shared that success is marked progress. Not all problems can be immediately solved but addressed. For example, literacy issues are ones where we can help elevate students to the national level. Moreover, ensuring other resources are available to rural Tennessee. Examples include dental and health care in the state. Other examples are the Extension services in every county in the state. We have 4-H agents working with 136,000 students across the state. 4-H provides additional educational initiatives beyond the standard curriculum in rural schools. President Boyd shifts to discuss the UT Promise program, which offers tuition coverage to families who make less than 60,000 dollars annually. UT has kept tuition low. For more information, please see

Episode Notes

President Boyd’s Bio

Randy Boyd serves as President of the University of Tennessee System, which includes campuses in Chattanooga, Pulaski, and Martin; the Health Science Center in Memphis; and the Institute of Public Service. Additionally, it includes the flagship campus in Knoxville, which is also comprised of the Space Institute in Tullahoma and the statewide Institute of Agriculture. The UT System also manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership, where Boyd serves as co-chairman.

In 2007, Boyd began a journey transitioning from entrepreneur and businessman to full-time public servant. Boyd is a founder and chairman of tnAchieves, a nonprofit that has helped send more than 133,000 students to community college free of tuition and fees. This success led then-Governor Bill Haslam to invite him to serve as Special Advisor on Higher Education in 2013. During his tenure, he is credited with being the architect of the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise. In 2015, Gov. Haslam recruited him back to serve as Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. During his tenure, his team recruited 52,000 new jobs and $9 billion in new investment for the state. He also founded and co-chaired the governor’s Rural Task Force and chaired the Governor’s Workforce Sub-Cabinet.

Boyd is a first-generation college graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis on industrial management from UT Knoxville. He also earned a master’s degree in liberal studies with a focus on foreign policy from the University of Oklahoma.