By Caroline Barnhill
He may have traveled all the way around the world, but “home” to Michael Dixon is now NC State. Dixon, who grew up in the small coastal town of Southport, N.C., came to NC State as an undergrad to study Spanish and education. “NC State opened so many doors for me. After growing up in a small town, I got to experience such diverse perspectives, backgrounds and ideas.” After graduating, he taught high school Spanish in Wake County before he got the itch to travel the world. “I moved to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English and I loved getting to experience the culture and make friends.”
Dixon’s adventures didn’t stop there. After moving back stateside, he landed in New York City and began to explore a career in higher education. “I lived in the city for six years and earned my master’s degree in international education from New York University while working in their international student office,” Dixon says. “I then transferred to Columbia University where I worked with their business school as an assistant director of admissions. They sent me all over the world – to India, the Philippines, South Korea, China and Mexico. I’ve been to 33 countries. However, when COVID hit, I packed up and headed home to North Carolina. I later saw an open associate director of admissions position at Poole Coolege and went for it.”
Today, Dixon serves as the director of admissions and recruitment for the college’s Jenkins MBA, MMA, and MRA programs – while also pursuing his doctorate in higher education leadership, policy and human development in NC State’s College of Education. But, as you can imagine, there’s much more to Dixon than his professional and academic pursuits.
Q&A with Michael Dixon
What is a project in your current role that you are particularly proud of?
I am hugely excited about a recent project we recently completed. We removed the GMAT and GRE requirement from our MBA program. My team and I put together a proposal arguing for the removal of that requirement, which we presented to the Poole College curriculum committee. I was able to pull in a lot of the research I’ve done as part of my doctoral program, including how this requirement negatively impacts people from diverse populations and socioeconomic groups. The curriculum committee voted on the spot to remove it [the requirement] altogether. That was my moment. I came back ‘home’ to NC State, I began this doctoral program and now I’m using that knowledge and my past experiences to make a real impact that will change the shape of the MBA program – opening access to a more diverse student body.
What’s the most memorable Poole College event you have attended?
It would definitely have to be NC State’s Pride Walk. We had our first one in October 2021 and we’re holding another one this October. It is an incredible opportunity to see the open-mindedness and inclusivity at NC State, while also giving me the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come as a university since I was a student. I couldn’t imagine years ago walking down Hillsborough Street with rainbow flags. It’s an incredible feeling to be comfortable and open about myself and who I am, while having the opportunity to relate on that level to some of our students. I’m very thankful to Tayah Butler who has brought so much to our school in the DEI space.
Why do you love being a part of Poole?
What I love most about Poole College is the people. I have worked at various institutions, attended NYU as a student, worked at Columbia and traveled the world. But the pride people feel in being part of NC State is huge. Whenever I meet an NC State alum – even if it’s halfway around the world – we become friends immediately. Wolfpack pride is everywhere. I also like how well Poole appreciates its employees. Whether it’s promoting from within, celebrating accomplishments or listening to feedback – they trust their employees and allow for creativity to flow. It’s displayed from the top down and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve thrived here. That’s how I work as well.
Tell us more about your life outside of Poole College.
I really got into fitness about 7 years ago when I moved to NYC – running, biking, hiking and working with a personal trainer. Exercise and health are a major priority in my life. Outside of work, you’ll find me training for my next marathon or triathlon. I’m also on a kickball team in Raleigh with the Stonewall Kickball League. It’s great for networking and meeting new people. I also recently got into Royal Caribbean cruises. It’s the best and easiest way to take a vacation. I took a cruise to the Caribbean in June and I’m heading back in November and taking my family with me. I travel whenever I can, even if it is as simple as a weekend getaway! There are so many cool places around the country and the world. A huge benefit of working at NC State is the vacation time, which allows me to travel extensively.
My Poole colleagues might not know…
I don’t think many people know that I am a personal trainer on the side. I obtained my National Association of Science Medicine (NASM) personal trainer certification through NC State. They offered a certification course during the pandemic, so I signed up immediately. I currently work with two clients on a weekly basis. I love working with people to achieve their fitness and nutrition goals.