Educational institutions today operate in complex environments. Thus, for education leaders to complete their mission of educating students, they must be able to lead more than just a classroom lesson. Today’s educators must develop the leadership skills to direct organizational change, craft cooperative agreements with other stakeholders, and navigate challenges at the school, local, state, and federal levels.
Ticking all these boxes of a successful 21st-century educational leader, Dr. Bradford Sims (President of Capitol Technology University) is immensely contributing to the success of the university. An agile and multi-dimensional leader, Dr. Sims is recognized for making a measurable contribution through innovative thinking and successful education. Courtesy of his invaluable contributions to higher education, he is known as one of the most influential educational leaders in the United States.
Construction Management to Higher Education
Dr. Sims completed a bachelor’s in construction management from Purdue University and moved around the U.S. building industrial facilities. At that point, he never thought he would go for an advanced degree or work in higher education. After several years in the industry, he finally decided to pursue a master’s in construction management at the University of Florida.
While there, Purdue asked him to return as a graduate instructor while providing a paid doctorate. After completing the doctorate, several universities invited Dr. Sims to interview for Assistant Professor Positions, so he changed his focus to higher education. He worked at several universities building programs and advancing his administrative career path, leading him to become the President of Capitol Technology University (Capitol Tech).
The History of Capitol Tech
Capitol Technology University was founded in Washington D.C. as the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute (CREI) in 1927 by Eugene H. Rietzke, a Navy veteran and radio operator who saw the need for an advanced school for radio and electronics technicians. CREI began as a correspondence school, however, its popularity led to a 1932 opening of a residence division, allowing students to work hands-on in laboratories. Following World War II, CREI became one of the first three technical institutes accredited by the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development.
The university has been continuously providing students access to careers and career advancements in desired STEM fields by offering hands-on undergraduate and graduate degrees. In a report released by Georgetown University ranking 4500 colleges on return on investment, Capitol was ranked 213 with a 20-year NPV; 141 after a 30-year NPV; and 120 over a 40-year lifetime of work.
Comprehensive Student Support Programs
As a small university, Capitol Tech offers comprehensive support programs to students who are never just a number for faculty and staff. Students have access to numerous academic services including tutoring, career counseling, internship placement, writing and interview training, and resume& skills workshops.
The Career Service Department at Capitol Tech offers a full-service Career Center with Staff dedicated to helping students find internships and full-time jobs and hosts a comprehensive Career Conference twice a year. During the conference, students attend presentations and workshops from industry leaders focused on resume writing, job search, online application, and interviewing techniques. Each Career Conference includes an employer fare during which employers seeking to hire graduates are connected with students seeking internships.
“As many of our graduates pursue work with government agencies and contractors requiring security clearances, we also provide training on completing the security clearance process paperwork,” asserts Dr. Sims.
He adds that the university also offers undergraduate students with the “Capital Commitment” which specifies that students who do not receive a job within 90 days of graduation can receive up to 36 additional graduate credits—tuition free—while they continue their job search with assistance from the university’s career services department.
Capitol Tech sponsors and hosts a plethora of student groups with academic interests incorporated such as the cyber battle team and robotics team, which allow students to apply their learned knowledge, participate in national competitions and collaborate on presentations with peers and faculty in a professional environment.
“For instance, at the 2017 Grass Hopper conference, Capitol Tech student Zalika Dixon won third place in the Microsoft sponsored ACM Student Research Competition for her project on UV radiation monitoring which she worked on under the supervision of a Capitol Tech professor,” adds Dr. Sims.
Capitol Tech’s students also had the opportunity to build CACTUS-1, a CubeSat that was launched in January 2021 for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) program. CACTUS-1 student contributors worked on a multidisciplinary team resembling those they would find in the workforce, worked within the strict project requirements, and practiced real-time problem-solving.
Promoting and Celebrating Diversity
“Our institution prides itself on promoting and celebrating diversity in our community,” says Dr. Sims. In Fall 2020, the campus’ total ethnic and racial minority population was 48%, and 56.8% when including females in STEM as an underserved population. Capitol Tech’s undergraduate population consisted of nearly 50% minority students; was over a fifth female in Fall 2019;, and in Fall 2020, over half were Pell Grant eligible with two-thirds receiving some kind of federal aid. On average, Master’s students were 33 years old, 50% minority, and 29% female, and doctoral students were 46 years old, 46% minority, and 29% female in 2019.
To support its diverse population in their academic and extracurricular interests, the university established student groups focused on specific populations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Woman Engineers (CWE), and Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys). The university actively recruits from spaces with a diverse population such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
Keeping up with the Trends
During the 1990s, US universities began to prioritize research taking focus from applied technical programs. However, after the 2008 recession, students began to focus more on the return on investment of their degree. “Now, COVID-19 has caused another shift in higher education by accelerating the shift to online learning when universities were suddenly required to offer many traditional degrees either completely online or in a hybrid model while simultaneously maintaining quality offerings,” comments Dr. Sims.
He adds that being a technology university with established online and on-campus courses, Capitol Tech continually evaluates the available synchronous and asynchronous tools to provide students the best educational experience. “We also have access to adjuncts who are working daily in technical areas and bring their expertise to the classroom to the benefit of our students,” he continues. While the economic impacts of Fall 2021 are concerning for everyone, the university is confident in its ability to persevere and succeed.
Seeking the Best
Dr. Sims believes that when considering options for choosing a college, students should always check to see if the university’s degree options lead to a stable career that can provide for themselves and their families. Moreover, students should also consider if the university promotes and provides networking opportunities both on campus and across the industries they are working in. He adds that students should take into account if an institution’s academics promote teamwork, collaborating, risk-taking, and problem-solving while integrating presentation skills to help students prepare for their future careers.
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