Legacy Series: Rande’s Career Defined by Taking Care of Students

Posted: Thursday, July 27th 2017 at 10:13 AM

Professor Wally RandeWally Rande received his bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management, ‘way too long ago,’ but then decided he did not want to work in hotels. He wanted to work in restaurants. Looking for a culinary school brought him to Johnson and Wales where he got his Culinary Arts degree.

He worked as a chef for a while but grew tired of ’about a hundred hours a week.’ Staying in touch with Johnson and Wales, he learned about an opening for a teaching position. Though interested in the position, he had to wait another year as he had just started a new job in Santa Clara, California, but the following year he and his wife moved across the country to begin his teaching career at Johnson and Wales.

Rande enjoyed teaching so he looked at what it was going to take for teaching to be a profession: a master’s degree, and teaching experience. He achieved his MBA in management at the University of Rhode Island, and added to his teaching experience at Johnson and Wales. Then he learned of the opening at NAU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

“This sounded interesting and actually the job that I originally applied for was Chef [Don Carlson’s] job, he said.” Carlson got the job, but Rande was offered another job instead. “Bill Miller, the associate dean at the time, called and asked ‘Would you be interested in coming out and teaching?’ so I came out, 26 years ago,” he said.

Rande then pursued his doctorate, at first looking into ASU. But after one round trip to Phoenix he realized that doing the drive two or three nights a week for three years was not for him. He decided to pursue a doctorate in educational leadership (EdD) because it was ‘here’.

HRM founding dean “Peter Van Kleek’s philosophy was if you can walk, you can talk, you can teach anything, so I've taught 13 or 14 different classes, pretty much every food class here. I actually started the wine and beer class, coffee and tea class. Ms. Jo took the coffee and tea class over and she added the cheese component and that works out really well for students,” he said.

The beer class was the result of Rande’s association with an old professor. “The professor that taught me my wine classes from Michigan State moved to UNLV. I went to see him and he asked, ‘Do you teach a beer class? No, I don't have time to pull one together.’ So he gave me the binder and said ‘Here's your beer class.’ So that's how the beer class evolved, and then the spirits [aka Mixology] class. Galen [Collins] had been suggesting it to me for years to do that. My issue, and initial reluctance, was that beer is 5-7% alcohol, and wine is 10-12% alcohol, but whiskey is 40-50% alcohol. It is tough enough policing the students in the beer and wine class. But Chef Mark Molinaro and I worked to put that together. Structure-wise, I did the first half of the class and he did the second. It is now part of the food and beverage track as an elective, offering even more classes for the students to supplement their degree,” he said.

When Rande arrived at HRM, he realized that there was a general misunderstanding in the community. People thought HRM was a culinary school or even a vocational school because students were trained to get jobs. Twenty-six years later, the focus has changed and yes, HRM does do better in preparing students for jobs.

“There is a demand for our students, and I think the demand comes not just because of the industry, but it's also because we as faculty see that our role isn't just standing in front of a class with students. It's helping them get jobs and interacting with recruiters. If we were in the Phoenix area, we would probably have twice as many recruiters since they would not have to travel the distance to Flagstaff, but they come for the quality of our grads. I think our top students would stand up against the top students at any school in the country, which is proven by the great number of HRM alums success stories.

“We – faculty, staff, and administration – work with the recruiters to make it easier for them to have access to students inside and outside of class. Suzanne Siler (’94 HRM), program director for internships and career services, coordinates this outreach. She is just the best, exudes hospitality, and cares. She is definitely one of the many dynamos we have here, and an alum, too.

“It also doesn't hurt that now a greater proportion of the recruiters are grads, like Tammy Ledyard (’01) from Pappas. She is our cheerleader and advocate for HRM. The two places in Flagstaff that employ the most students are the Doubletree and Little America. I can't walk 10 feet down their halls without walking into a grad or a current student. Little America’s general manager, Fred Reese (’91 GBS) is a grad and so is the director of sales, Ryan Kennedy. Both are big supporters of our program. Mike Rock (’99) former General Manager of Doubletree – Flagstaff and current district manager for the management company that has the franchise on the Doubletree, is a big supporter and mentors many current and former students that work for him. Most of the places in town are really big supporters. Not only do they hire students, they are also mentors.

“I remind students that when the recruiters come, they are not here for you. It's because they've hired grads that came before you who did a good job, and are coming back to the Well. We have a lot of 1st Gen college kids. They are hard-working. That's why recruiters come back. And recruiters talk, so hires keep growing and growing,” he said.

Rande feels that the program lost a lot when HRM lost The Inn because that was what made HRM unique. Enrollment is still strong, but he thinks it's because that while facilities may have changed, the core faculty are still teaching and the School still stands on its reputation.

“I don't have a lot to compare it with, but I'm assuming that we probably have one of the lowest turnover of faculty on this campus. Looking back over the years, I think the person that kept everything together has been Galen Collins. Galen is just a fabulous person. He’s one of the few people who not only is an excellent administrator, but he's also a really good teacher. There has always been this cohesiveness, a family thing...we balance each other out. I've never seen anyone waiver in the dedication to students. That's one of the things that really important to me. Our job is to take care of students.

“It's nice to have been a part of the growth process, being able to help shape it along the way. It's going to be interesting to see the future of HRM, with the transition from the founding faculty to the new faculty. In the next 5 years, with half of the original faculty retiring, we've been talking about how to maintain the culture that has made HRM great and continue its prominence in the future.

“When looking for a teaching job 26 years ago, I had a couple offers from other hospitality programs, and I'm glad that I took this job because I don't think any other place would've been as rewarding and allowed as much personal growth as I've had here. I don't think there is any other job where there would've been the collegiality among faculty, the opportunity to work with the great students and administrators, and live in a town like Flagstaff – that's made this a great place to work,” he said as his smile lit up his eyes.

Categories: wally rande legacy series suzanne siler galen collins summer 2017 2017