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Dr. Neil Randall (MA 1982)

     Since his first undergraduate class at the University of Guelph in 1977, Dr. Neil Randall (MA 1982) has known that professorship was his calling. Discovering an interest in medieval literature as an undergraduate, Dr. Randall began his graduate studies in English at the University of Waterloo shortly after finishing at Guelph. He fondly remembers the camaraderie among students in his graduate class, and a course in the American Naturalists taught by Professor Bill Macnaughton: “I just liked Bill’s way of handling things, including this wonderful technique he had for asking you questions...something I’ve always tried to emulate but I don’t think I got.” After graduating, Dr. Randall completed his PhD at York University, and returned to teach at the University of Waterloo in 1985. Having taught at Waterloo full-time ever since, Dr. Randall describes his time at UW as “a really wonderful experience...the best job on the planet.” For Dr. Randall, the most rewarding part of his work has always been mentoring students. He finds “joy is in watching students thrive with individual assignments, individual projects, coming to the end of their schooling and getting good jobs.”

     When Dr. Randall was hired in 1985, he was slated to teach half-time Canadian Literature, and half-time for the newly-proposed rhetoric program. An undergraduate program in Rhetoric Professional Writing, which Dr. Randall helped to name, officially started in 1986. Since then, the program has blossomed into a well-known brand among employers looking to hire. Dr. Randall witnessed the emergence of a unique MA in Language and Professional Writing in 1987 (now called Rhetoric and Communication Design), followed by a PhD program in English Language and Literature shortly thereafter (1990).

     Among other things, Dr. Randall studies games, including board games, computer games, and board game simulations played on digital table-top displays. For Dr. Randall, English scholars have an important role to play when it comes to digital media and technology: “The study of how we interact with technology is the study of communication...who better to be studying that than people who study language and communication full time?” In fact, Dr. Randall believes that English studies can cover all sorts of ground, both traditional and contemporary – a lesson that continues to drive his work at Waterloo today. “Study in English can impact all fields of human communication. This includes literature. This includes games. This includes film. This includes music. This includes technical communication, business communication, institutional communication. Anything that has to do with human beings communicating with each other can come under the study of what we do.”