Adonica Randall was eight months pregnant with her first child, Monique, in 1979 when the call came from the White House.
A certified radio isotope handler, Randall was summoned to the nation’s capital to help officials determine the scope of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. Despite being on a no-fly restriction from her obstetrician, Randall made the trip to help with the incident that transfixed Americans’ attention.
“I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “The president called all of the nation’s isotope handlers to Washington.”
At the time, Randall was near the beginning of a long career that led her to many different technical and business occupations. Her latest is a new role as the Opus College of Engineering’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, a position she will hold for a year.
What is an entrepreneur-in-residence? Typically, he or she is a successful businessperson who dedicates a specific amount of time pursuing academics on campus. The EIR may become a guest lecturer, mentor student startups on campus, coach entrepreneurs, assist with business plans and serve on advisory boards.
Randall, who received her master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Opus College of Engineering, appears to be a great fit for the job. She has held positions at General Electric, IBM, General Motors and A. O. Smith, and has owned and operated her own consulting business in the Milwaukee area the past 15 years. She brings real-world expertise and entrepreneurial practice to students and academia by giving practical tips and guidance while sharing her real-world stories.
“You don’t have to own your own company to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “The entrepreneurial and innovative mindset is critical to the growth of students.”
It’s clear that Randall has that mindset.
At GM, she worked at the Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich., the automobile industry’s first dedicated automobile testing facility. She’d ride along with test car drivers at speeds topping 120 mph.
“That’s probably why I’m fearless on the road,” she said with a smile. “I have a massive love affair with cars.”
In addition, at GM she worked on a joint project with Ford to design catalytic converters, widely used in new cars beginning in 1975.
At A. O. Smith, she worked on the first ATMs, called TYME (Take Your Money Everywhere) machines. Her team also conducted 3D mathematical modeling for magnetic properties, working on systems for tandem machines, as part of a windshield wiper project for farm equipment)
“It was the beginning of electronic banking,” she said of the original ATM system.
Despite this vast experience, she realized while owning her own business that her strong suits are sales and access.
“I’ve learned to validate, track and assess, allowing me to talk to other engineers about new ideas and funding,” she said.
In addition to her achievements in the business world, Randall was an associate professor at Alverno College’s Department of Computing and Information Technology, and later part of the Business School with Business Analytics for 23 years.
She is president and CEO of Abaxent LLC, a full-service business solutions provider that specializes in resources providing strategic planning, project management, process improvement and IT services.
She previously served in leadership roles in the Wisconsin Leaders Forum and the NAACP – Waukesha Chapter. She also is on the cabinet of the Waukesha United Performing Arts Fund. Now, she’s at Marquette to help students have the same success she’s experienced.
“The world wants these people who have no boundaries,” she said. “They just rise to the occasion.”