Assistant dean says he wasn’t model student in undergrad

Andrew McMichael is the interim department head for the English Department and assistant dean of Potter College. Previously he has worked as a bartender, bouncer and cook. His favorite previous job was working with kindergarten students. “It’s nice when the hardest thing you have to worry about is making sure that every kid has the same amount of snacks,” he said. 

Ella Burnside

Andrew McMichael, assistant dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters, didn’t have the model undergraduate career at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia.

“It took me 10 years to get my undergrad degree,” McMichael said. “That’s not the best example for how to get your degree, and it was mostly because I wasn’t ready to be in school.”

In the years he worked on getting his degree and before coming to WKU, McMichael worked as a bouncer at clubs, ran security for a band, sold encyclopedias door to door and worked as a blacksmith.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “So it wasn’t a complete lack of focus. I knew what I wanted to do, I just needed to be in the right place.”

Before beginning college, McMichael lived in southern California and played water polo for a junior international team. McMichael said the idea behind junior international teams is that they are supposed to create people who can play in the Olympics.

“But I was too small,” he said. “When I was competing at the highest competition level I competed at (in 1985), I was 5’10” (and) 160 pounds.”

In 1988, which would have been McMichael’s year to compete at the Olympics, the average height and weight of the Olympic team was 6’2” and 220 pounds. McMichael set city records as a swimmer but was still too small to compete professionally.

While in college, McMichael worked every odd job he could find, and while on breaks from school he worked as a bouncer in Boulder, Colo.

“I worked as a stage door guard for a rock’n’roll band called Little Feat,” he said. “I got the job because I was a bouncer. I worked for them when they would come to Boulder.”

When the band came through Colorado for the last time, they invited McMichael to go on tour with them as their bodyguard. He said standing in front of the bus was a kind of watershed moment for him. He chose not to get on because he knew if he did, the rock’n’roll lifestyle would consume him.

“It was a good decision,” he said. “I would definitely make the same decision again. But it was tempting.”

McMichael chose instead to pursue teaching, a career he said he always knew he wanted.

“Andrew is one of the most energetic, focused, and hard-working people I know,” Kate Hudepohl, a friend of McMichael’s and associate professor of folk studies and anthropology, said. “He is serious and professional when the situation demands it, but he also has a wonderful sense of humor.”

Hudepohl said that, as a coworker, she respects McMichael’s work ethic and his willingness to take on difficult leadership positions.

“I suspect that those qualities, coupled with his creative nature, are what make his courses appealing to students,” Hudepohl said. “He co-teaches a class on the history of beer — enough said.”