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Interview: Dr. Michael R. Fain

Capitol Technology University’s new assistant director of doctoral programs, Dr. Michael R. Fain, took up the position in May after having previously contributed his expertise to the Capitol academic community as an adjunct professor. Dr. Fain will continue to teach courses in business, communications and writing while advising D.Sc and Ph.D students and helping to run the annual doctoral residency.

Dr. Fain spoke to Capitology about his passion for education, his personal background, and what he sees as the signature characteristics of Capitol as an institution of higher learning.

Could you tell us a little about yourself? What drew you to a career in higher education?

I’m originally from Kentucky; I grew up in Louisville and attended public schools there. After that, I went to Western Kentucky University and completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field of communication disorders.  I started my professional career working as a clinician, and then later moved to Washington, D.C. to do my doctoral work at Howard University, also in communication disorders.

I’ve always wanted to be an educator. I love education; I’ve known since seventh grade that I wanted to go into teaching. My experiences at Western Kentucky and Howard kept that aspiration going, though I’ve also continued to be very interested in clinical research. At Howard, I did work on the communication disorders affecting Alzheimer’s patients. My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s, so the topic had personal significance for me.

After obtaining my degree, I taught at a number of universities, starting with Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. I had a really wonderful experience there and was able to do some of my clinical work in addition to teaching. Unfortunately, the weather in Cleveland was not to my liking! I left Ohio and went to teach at West Georgia College, and then found myself drawn back to the DC area – it’s like a magnet. I accepted a position at the AARP, which involved going around the country to set up satellite offices for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Later, a new opportunity arose when the DC government decided to establish a Department of Mental Health; because of my background working with Alzheimer’s and dementia, I was able to help with the administration of this new department.  Subsequently, I was director of rehab services at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I’ve also worked as a consultant, assisting individuals who are seeking to earn their GEDs,

When did you begin teaching at Capitol?

I joined the adjunct faculty here in the fall of 2014, teaching ENG 408, which is the technical writing class. In the spring semester, I was afforded the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course in ethics in addition to English.  When the position of assistant director of doctoral programs opened up, I decided to apply – and the rest is history! In this position, I wear multiple hats, so to speak: primarily, I’m here to work closely with the dean of Business and Information Sciences, Dr. Helen Barker. In addition,  I will act as an advisor to over 100 doctoral students who are enrolled in the program at different stages of their degrees; students can call me when they have questions about what classes they should be taking or any other aspect of the program. I’ll be very much involved in the doctoral residency, which is held three times a year over a three-day weekend.

Meanwhile, I still teach technical writing; I will also start teaching a doctoral class in ethics later this summer.

What do you like most about Capitol? What makes us stand out as an institution of higher learning?

One of the jewels of this university is the fact that it’s a small institution. The fact that we have such a close-knit, almost family-like, environment helps facilitate learning, in my view. If a student doesn’t show up for class, there’s a very good chance we’ll run into each other and I can pull him or her aside and find out what happened – and also ask  that person if there’s some way I can help with whatever challenge he or she is dealing with.

This is very different from the much larger higher education institutions, where students can feel they are just numbers; many fall through the cracks and no one really notices.

We have an open door policy at Capitol; students can come in at any time, office hours notwithstanding,  to meet with me about their concerns. Capitol is also committed to working with students from diverse backgrounds – not only diverse in terms of culture, but diverse in terms of professional experiences.  I am honored and consider it a privilege to work here; to have Dr. Helen Barker as a mentor is like a dream come true. Every day I have an opportunity to interact with, in my opinion, some of the most gifted intellectual peers and students in this country. The Best Is Yet to Come!