Alumnus: Returning to school "opportunity to prove yourself academically"
June 10, 2022
Joshua Randall ’17 (BA History), had always thought about going on to higher education but never felt it was for him. “It always felt like something I wanted but was for other people. I often wanted to go to school and even took steps toward it, but it always felt foreign, like something rich kids on TV go to but not people like me,” says Randall.
Growing up, he was raised in a hard-working low-income family. “While they didn't understand the value of education, they didn't necessarily discourage it either,” he says. A combination of necessity and lack of relatability to school caused him to drop out of school in Grade 10.
It was through local anti-poverty work in 2008-2009 that Randall met Dr. Bernie Hammond, Professor Emeritus of the Social Justice and Peace Studies and Sociology department. The two chatted about exploring education options. It was a pivotal meeting which would change Randall’s future.
While meeting with Dr. Hammond and other faculty had pointed him towards King’s, Randall was not ready to head back to school. However, over the next couple of years, the idea continued to grow on him. “Eventually, I almost had to go,” he says.
Randall earned his GED in 2005 and was able to gain admission into a part-time program at King’s.
There was, however, the matter of paying the application fee. Randall and his wife, Colleen, were very short on cash. When Dr. Hammond heard of this, he offered to pay the application fee if Randall would apply. “I did,” says Randall.
The campus had “an aura of comfortability,” due to the smaller and more intimate classes, as opposed to the large classes of most universities.
Still, Randall admits returning to school as a mature student was a difficult journey, especially as he remembers back to his first paper. “As a written piece of work, it was beyond atrocious. I really do feel sorry for the professors who originally had to grade my papers. However, the professors at King’s do care about the students and their learning. Through great feedback and answering endless questions, I was better able to hone my rhetorical and writing skills,” says Randall.
In 2011, Randall took a break from school following “a bad second year, through no fault of King’s.” He returned in 2014 but was unsure what to pursue. He had done well in a first-year History class and so, after meeting with Academic Counselling, it was suggested he pursue history.
“I fell in love with [history]. It really gives a broad spectrum and critical lens to apply to the world. Historians are some of the most analytical and honest people out there. I found my home amongst the students and faculty in the History program. I remember debating some very complicated issues around death, war, tragedy, poverty, and a whole host of other issues. The varied student body helped provide nuanced views and different ideas on subjects I had never considered,” says Randall.
Fast forward and Randall is now a Corporate Learning and Training Advisor at Lighthouse Labs, working with large enterprises to help implement technological reskilling and upskilling programs with an eye towards breaking down barriers to education. Randall says returning to school as a mature student “will be hard. You will question your choices, [but] in the end, [returning to school] will be worth it and you will cherish your opportunity to prove yourself academically, and no one will be able to take that
As he looks back at his time at King’s, Randall says “the support I received was phenomenal. The academic staff were always understanding when I explained that I would need some extra time on an assignment because of one life jolt or another.”