Staff You Should Know: Randy Pilkington
Randy Pilkington, executive director of the University of Northern Iowa's Business and Community Services (BCS), has a passion for UNI. "I wear purple everywhere I go," he said. This passion stems from having attended UNI as an undergrad and graduate student, and also his position in BCS.
"UNI has been so good to me in the years from my education, and then from this position," he said. "I want to give back so that others can see what UNI contributes."
Pilkington's work in BCS allows him to do just that. "We look at what are the unmet needs in the state of Iowa, what are the challenges in Iowa, and what can UNI do to meet those needs?" he said.
BCS helps meet these needs in many ways, including their outreach programs in all 99 Iowa counties. Pilkington recalled one of his earlier projects in West Union, which aimed to attract more businesses to the area by setting up a speculative industrial building, and improving the city's marketing and recruitment plans.
"Within months, they started to have new companies coming in, groundbreakings for new businesses, and new buildings going up," Pilkington said. In addition to that, throughout the next decade, "They saw the industrial parks start to fill up, they recruited hundreds of jobs into West Union, their population increased, and their school enrollment went up."
"The biggest contribution UNI makes to Iowa is students."
"It's very rewarding because you see the results," said Pilkington of these sorts of projects. What especially excites Pilkington, however, is seeing students get involved in these programs.
"Last year, we had more than 2,000 students involved in the delivery of these programs," he said. "We give them practical experience in their field of study, and it's contributing back to Iowans. It's the perfect blend."
Giving back to the community is a big part of Pilkington's life. Even when he's not working, he spends his time volunteering for projects that are very similar to his job at BCS. "A lot of my volunteer activity focuses on trying to enhance the economy of North and East Waterloo," he said.
Pilkington also enjoys reading, and his passion for economics often influences his reading choices. He's not all about business, though. He's an avid fan of Abraham Lincoln and baseball, "I'm a big Yankees fan," he said. He alternates between reading books on each of these areas of interest.
In addition to recreational reading, Pilkington also likes to golf. Although he admits he doesn't get the chance to step onto the course as often as he'd like, the sacrifice is worth it if it means spending more time giving back to the community.
"What motivates me is to see UNI get the recognition that it deserves for all of the outstanding contributions that we make to the state of Iowa," he said.
While BCS makes many contributions to the community through the aforementioned economic development programs, according to Pilkington, "The biggest contribution UNI makes to Iowa is students."
"They just become a real contributing citizen by the time they graduate from UNI," he said. "I get to experience it every day."
Although, Pilkington advises students that their work is not done when they graduate. "You're not finished when you're done with your degree," he said. He encourages students to continue seeking opportunities to learn after graduation. "Take on any opportunity that comes along to get you outside your comfort zone. It'll be the fastest way you can grow," he said.
However, what he especially encourages both students and faculty to do is have more school spirit. "We should be proud to be from UNI," he said. "Let everyone know the great things we do here."