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Interview with Stephen Fagbemi, PsyD, PhD

Rachel Schein (RS): My name is Rachel Schein and I’m a 2nd year student at GIPP and I am talking today with Dr. Stephen Fagbemi, who has been an adjunct professor for 3 or 4 years at GIPP. The purpose of this interview is to find out more about you and your work here. So tell me a bit about yourself, for example your education, your clinical training, your background.

Stephen Fagbemi (SF): Part of my education involves being a former student of this particular program. However, before being a student here I had obtained a doctorate degree in Human Development from the University of Texas. I was an adjunct faculty member in the Undergraduate program and the Masters degree program and then in 1996 I chose to specialize as a clinical psychologist. I enrolled in the program here and completed the doctoral program in 2000. In other words, from 1996-2000 I obtained the PsyD degree. I did my postdoctoral internship at the VA in Newington and obtained my license in 2001. Since then I’ve been in both private practice as well as teaching psychology.

RS: How did you come to be a faculty member at GIPP?

SF: Well, because I was a student here, I had known a lot about the different kinds of courses, and, as I also indicated, I was an adjunct faculty member in the undergraduate program. After obtaining a doctoral degree as a clinical psychologist, I wanted to begin to teach courses related to clinical psychology, and to that extent I expressed interest in teaching in the doctoral program.

RS: What do you see as your role as an adjunct faculty member?

SF: Actually there are about three different roles that I believe I should play as an adjunct faculty member. One is to teach the courses that I am assigned, courses like community psychology and human diversity. Another role that I have also played is that I have served as the second reader for many students who are working on their dissertations. A third role is that I have also served on the committees within the particular program that has to do with the appeal process and to specify how problems that may arise within the program should be resolved. I did that for about a year or two. I should also add that they have given me the status of what they call affiliate faculty member.

RS: And what is the difference between an adjunct and affiliate faculty member?

SF: Well, the way I understand it is that, as an affiliate faculty member, I can be asked to serve on some committees within the program. It also it makes it easier for me to serve on the dissertation committees. So those are the two main things that I see as my role. Affiliate faculty members can also read the qualifying exams.

RS: Have you done that yet?

SF: No, I have not done that and I cannot say that I am looking forward to grading more papers.

RS: How would you characterize your overall experience as a faculty member here at GIPP?

SF: I think it has been very positive because of the various ways I have been involved in the program, teaching as well as being able to involve myself in some level of research with students in the program.

RS: So you said what you like most about teaching here is being involved with students’ research. What have been some of the most rewarding experiences?

SF: Some of the most rewarding experiences have actually been in the classroom in terms of being able to have students that are very well prepared. As I mentioned, I have taught at the undergraduate and masters level. To have a body of students with a high caliber of intellectual preparation sometimes makes one’s job considerably more challenging but at the same time rewarding. The idea that most of the classes have been seminar type makes it possible for students to actually discuss some of the clinical issues. Sometimes, there will be divergence of opinions on various topics, and that’s one of the things that I find most interesting about teaching in a program like this.

RS: What have been some of your biggest challenges?

SF: I cannot really say I have a very big challenge. If I am to point at any challenge, it’s the nature of being an adjunct faculty member and that I am not here most of the time. As a result, I may not be able to attend to issues and interests of students as quickly as a full time faculty member might be able to be. I come here once a week and, as such, things may have to wait for about a week before I can actually meet with students. Except if I can deal with an issue by phone or by email.

RS: What is your philosophy on education and training?

SF: My philosophy on education and training is that I need to get the students to be a participative member of the course. To engage them in critical thinking, to be able to present them with theoretical, core ideas, to be able to discuss the practical and clinical implications for some of the topics we’ve covered in class, and to provide students an opportunity to express their own ideas and thoughts fully about the various issues, and for me to also be able to share my thoughts with them. Sometimes I feel that there may be no absolutely right or wrong ways to present certain issues, but it is always very important for us to critically think about cases and issues in the classroom setting.

RS: And if you had to define your approach to teaching, what would that be?

SF: I will say I have a highly participative approach on the part of students.

RS: One of the core commitments of the PsyD program is an appreciation of diversity. How do you see that this is manifested within the program?

SF: One of the courses that I teach, the Human Diversity course, by itself is one of the ways that I feel it is manifested in the program. Of course I am not the only one who teaches the course, but I believe that the incorporation of diversity to other courses is also a manifestation of diversity in the program. As someone who was a student in the program, I am aware that many of the faculty members have tried to incorporate diversity in various dimensions in terms of ethnic, racial, gender dimensions. So I think that those are some of the ways that diversity is manifested. Also another course that I teach, community psychology, I know that I incorporate diversity into it as well.

RS: Are there any specific projects that you’re working on at this time?

SF: A project that I’m working on is actually outside of my work here at GIPP. It is part of my community involvement in terms of being able to establish a charter school in one of the poorest communities in Hartford. To be able to give opportunity for a number of underprivileged students who may be of middle school and high school age to have very high quality education.

RS: Where are you doing this?

SF: We are doing it in collaboration with the Hartford public school system. We have already begun to select a potential site. It has been narrowed down to two different sites in Hartford, in one of the most poverty stricken parts, but we have not completely selected a particular sight. We started this project way back in the 1990’s. But after we started it, it evolved into a magnet school in Hartford and some of the core aspects of what we wanted to see were not incorporated into the magnet school, even though they took bits and pieces of it. So we came to the conclusion that this is truly not what we really wanted. So some of us, even though we are still involved with the magnet school, decided to start again, and this time we would do it right. Let’s make sure that the core aspects that we seemed to have compromised on are incorporated in the new charter school.  Because, when those core aspects were taken away, even though the magnet school, as it is now, is running fairly well, taking away those core aspects did not permit it to be as successful as it could have been.

RS: What are some of the things that you do outside of GIPP? Some of your hobbies, your interests, that you have outside of the field of psychology?

SF: The thing that I do outside the program, again highly related to psychology, I teach psychology at a college here in Hartford. I also practice psychology here in Hartford. In terms of non-psychology interests, they tend to all be family oriented. Spending a lot of time with my daughter, who is now 13 years old, taking her to some of the various after school activities that she participates in like tennis and swimming, being highly involved; that’s one of the most rewarding things that I do at this time. In terms of things that I do for strict personal enjoyment, I tend to do that mostly in the summer when I travel. I like to go to other countries. Last year I was in Spain and this year Ill be going to Italy. I like to see other cultures, cultures that are very different then mine. To be able to spend about two to three weeks in a foreign country where the language is very different, different types of food, different customs; it lets me know more about many of these other communities.

RS: Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you wanted to add?

SF: I think you have covered all of the bases!

RS: Well thank you very much; I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak to me and for your contributions to the community.