Five Minute Q&A
Amy Randolph

Amy Randolph


Celebrating 20 years of service with Barnes & Noble College, after starting with the company as a young student bookseller, General Manager Amy Randolph now manages two very busy bookstore operations at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), servicing the social and academic needs of VCU’s 30,000 students. Amy recently spent five minutes with Barnes & Noble College discussing the value of college, the important reasons behind her store’s unique partnership with the campus library and the thrill of getting into the Final Four.

What was your first job?

I had many different jobs pretty much from the age of fifteen, but I started with Barnes & Noble College as a temporary cashier in college — and never left. I actually met my husband at that first bookstore!

How do you describe your current role at Barnes & Noble College?

At a higher level, I’d describe my role as being a conduit for communication, ideas and initiatives between the university and Barnes & Noble College. I integrate VCU’s goals with our mission at the store and work with my team to execute that collaborative vision.

How would you describe Virginia Commonwealth University, the campus and its students?

I think we’re a particularly interesting campus because we’re located right in the middle of downtown Richmond, so we don’t exist just in our own kind of ecosystem. As a result, our students are more integrated and engaged with their community. They’re creative, too — we’re always rated one of the best art schools in the nation.

What are you working on right now?

Our library has a textbook affordability initiative, exploring how to use open educational resources (OER) in the classroom to drive down the cost of education by making learning materials more affordable. In some ways, that might seem at odds with the campus bookstore, but we’ve worked with University from the beginning, helping them understand the resources we can offer and describing the role we play in textbook affordability. Our contribution to that partnership is that we’ve introduced VCU to LoudCloud Courseware and our faculty resources through XanEdu. It’s a great partnership because although affordability is something that everyone’s talking about, it’s also something few really understand.

In your view, what’s the biggest challenge facing education today?

I’m a parent of two boys and, like a lot of parents, I want to be sure that the education we provide for our kids is going to be of value to them. I don’t just mean financial value, but also how that degree translates to a life after college. It’s something this school is very aware of. The VCU tagline is “Make it Real” and the goals of the university are about being a part of the community they’re serving and connecting students with real-life experiences, whether that’s through research programs or internships or just social outreach. Being a supportive member of the community and creating real-life connections is such an important part of the student experience.

Where do you think the biggest opportunity lies for Barnes & Noble College for the future?

I think in our digital learning platforms like OER Courseware — and our analytics capabilities, in particular. There are a lot of resources we can now offer that make for a more relevant and engaging learning experience for our students.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

If I were to do anything else, I’d think I’d like to stick with education — still in some way related to learning materials — and in a role where I can continue to connect with students and how they learn.

Favorite part of the store?

It would be a tie between textbooks and general merchandising, but I think general merchandise (GM) would win out. VCU has a large and loud fan base for their basketball team and I love the merchandising, the team spirit and working with people who are excited about our school. I have to say, I think our GM department really embodies that.

Favorite book or book you’re currently reading?

John Green, Turtles All the Way Down. I’m a voracious reader, but have a special interest in young adult fiction. I love characters who are trying to find their place in the world. I think it helps me better understand our students who are making that big transition into adulthood.

Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?

Something I’ve realized, both for those people who work for me and for our customers and store partners, is that I think we all see the world through our own unique lens. One of the most important things I’ve learned, and tried to pass on to new managers, is that if you really want to understand and empathize with others — you have to take off your own lens and try on theirs.

Best day at Barnes & Noble College – so far?

In 2011, the men’s VCU basketball team went all the way to the Final Four. I remember a particularly crazy day when we were waiting for a shipment of t-shirts that had been delayed on a commercial flight. The store was full — even the media were there filming the arrival of the shirts at the loading dock — and we had tons of volunteers helping hand out the shirts for sale. This crazy cheer went out when the shirts finally arrived and the men’s basketball team, who was practicing next door, came in afterwards and signed shirts. It was just a great day for the store, but especially for our school. We felt like celebrities for weeks.