Faculty Name: Dr. Michael A. Fahy

Dr. Fahy teaching in a lab

Dr. Fahy teaching in the Microchip Technology Software Engineering Laboratory in 2019.

Course(s) Taught: CENG/CPSC 298: Computer Engineering/Science Colloquium (Intro to *NIX), CPSC 353: Data Communications and Computer Networks and more

When honoring the visionaries of Chapman STEM curricula, it is vital to recognize the invaluable contributions of Dr. Michael A. Fahy. After earning his bachelor’s in Mathematics from Fordham University and a doctorate in the same subject from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Dr. Fahy became the first math Ph.D. on our campus. Since then, he has dedicated his career to revolutionizing STEM initiatives between Schmid College of Science and Technology and Fowler School of Engineering (FSE). Throughout the past 34 years, Dr. Fahy has taught over two dozen different courses, ranging from Applied Mathematics to Coding Theory to Web Engineering; he continues to brainstorm new ideas for future classes focused around modern technologies in website development, such as Javascript, React, and Node.

Outside of his faculty responsibilities, Dr. Fahy serves as the Faculty Advisor for Chapman’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student branch. He is also the University Liaison for the Orange County Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, having occupied Chair and Treasurer roles in previous years. Dr. Fahy also takes part in a weekly Celtic music session as a personal hobby. In the 90s and early 2000s, he was even part of a folk music group with other members of Chapman administration.

We met with Dr. Fahy to gain further insight into his enduring legacy within and beyond Fowler, delving into the far-reaching impact he continues to leave on Chapman’s STEM programs. 


Q&A With Dr. Michael A. Fahy

Q: Did you work anywhere in the industry previous to becoming a professor and how did you incorporate that knowledge into your teaching or impact on Chapman?

three men at a picnic

In the past, Dr. Fahy has worked with a multitude of students and faculty. Here he is pictured working with Dr. Erik Linstead ’01.

Dr. Fahy: I had a software company that developed a system for a medical services company, which arranged medical appointments for clients involved in insurance claims. We created the full accounts payable, accounts receivable, appointment scheduling, and all the software that ran the company. This was where I got involved in networking since I had to create the whole network for them. This was in the early 80s before internet standards had been developed; that was where my networking journey began. 

I then brought this knowledge to Chapman. We did not have a network here at the time—we had a mainframe system and terminals that were connected to it using serial lines. Faculty members had computers, but they were not networked to each other, they were standalone machines. I think that’s been my biggest impact at Chapman by taking what I had learned about networking in the software industry to connect all computers on campus.


Q: How have you impacted Chapman University on a technical/engineering side?

Dr. Fahy: I was the one who registered the chapman.edu domain, set up the first email system and first web server, and built out the network on campus. Back in the day we had around 23 academic centers at remote locations all around the western United States, meaning we had to network all of them together. A lot of them were on military bases, which was pretty exciting; I remember visiting the anti-submarine warfare base in San Diego, 29 Palms with a super tight military where the kids were saying “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.” 

Our web server was actually built as a class project. It was a challenge in the beginning to let people know that it was important to check out the Web and get an email address because it will be a big thing. I remember talking to the public relations group, telling them that everything they used to do with print media was going to be replaced with this thing called the Internet; at the time they had a hard time believing that. It was a really good opportunity for me: I was here at the right time in the beginning, and here we are.

Dr. Fahy in a lecture

Students learning from Dr. Fahy in one of his lectures.

Q: What have you noticed about Fowler School of Engineering students that impresses you?

Dr. Fahy: How much external activity they’re involved in: there are so many students that have interests beyond the classroom. One of my recent students was developing a hydroponic system (read more here) and was super involved in all of these external projects, which was really awesome to see. There are many other excellent students who are also involved in a bunch of projects and are individually motivated and there are others who are collaborating on interesting projects outside of class. The overall creativity of the students is really amazing.


Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you in turn give to Fowler students?

Dr. Fahy: The best advice I have received is to keep looking for new opportunities; keep looking for what the next thing is going to be. As for students, I say get to know your faculty. Go to office hours, reach out to them on Slack. Don’t be intimidated and reluctant to connect because the ones who do seem to get so much more out of the whole experience. There are so many times where I will do my office hours on the second floor or remote and I’ll sit there for an hour and nobody will show up, or one student will pop in for five minutes and that is it. The ones who do show up get a lot out of it, and the ones who don’t are missing out.


Q: What are some memorable experiences you’ve had with students throughout your time at Chapman?

Dr. Fahy: One of them was when we started the game development program. I had worked with the IEEE GameSig to create the IEEE Intercollegiate Computer Game showcase, and we had the first one here at Chapman. It was an amazing event. The Chapman students completely dominated it: they won all the prizes, and for that to happen almost two years after the game development program began at Chapman was incredible. We created something new and got amazing involvement from Chapman students and Orange County because it was the first and only collaborative academic activity among Cal State Fullerton, UCI, and Chapman for about 12 years now. It was really memorable for me and I would guess for the students, too. 

Student group with Dr. Michael Fahy

While students enjoyed participating in the IEEE Fox Hunt, Dr. Fahy also enjoyed seeing them engage in knowledge and understanding of the different systems.

More recently, our IEEE Student Branch hosted a Fox Hunt where Keysight Technologies—the company that provides us with a lot of our hardware—set up signal generators around campus. Our students had the opportunity to use their signal and spectrum analyzers to go find them. 


Q: What is your favorite part of teaching at Fowler School of Engineering?

Dr. Fahy: The fact that I get to know the students. That is why I teach the Intro to *NIX course: I get to meet all the new freshmen. This upcoming fall semester, I am going to instruct six sections of the course instead of three because there were just not enough classes; Fowler has grown so much! We have around 150 freshmen and it is just not enough for me to meet them all. Meeting them, getting to know them, and watching them grow through their four years here is my favorite part.

For more information and to connect with Dr. Fahy, visit his LinkedIn and GitHub.