Teaching together for 12 years, longtime duo takes public speaking to the next level

Public Speaking Lab is open for registration for the fall semester. Visit glasscock.rice.edu/communications  for details.

Michael Fain, J.D. met Christopher Hunter in 2002 at Lanier Junior High School in Houston, where Fain volunteered as a speech and debate coach. In 2004, Fain brought Hunter to the Rice University campus to help teach Effective Public Speaking, one of the Glasscock School’s most popular classes for the past 30 years. This fall, they will provide the next level to their class with Public Speaking Lab.

“After people complete Effective Public Speaking, we always get asked, ‘What do I do now?’ Public Speaking Lab is the next step for those who have taken Effective Public Speaking or are already experienced speakers.” — Christopher Hunter, instructor

“After people complete Effective Public Speaking, we always get asked, ‘What do I do now?’” Hunter said. “Public Speaking Lab is the next step for those who have taken Effective Public Speaking or are already experienced speakers. The focus will be on topics inherent to students’ careers and will give them the opportunity to tweak and tailor a speech, so when they have to give it at work, they’re confident and comfortable.”

Students who take the communication courses offered by Fain and Hunter will notice the instructors have distinct approaches. Fain’s development is focused more on structure and content, while Hunter focuses on vocal variety and the physical aspects of a speech.

“We have very different speaking styles, so our students get the best of both worlds,” Fain said. “The lab is the natural next step to becoming an effective speaker. We’re very sensitive to the needs of our audience. Our classes are always improving based on input from students. Public Speaking Lab will provide a collaborative environment consistent with the Rice culture.”

Peter Guempel has participated in nine classes at the Glasscock School since 2011. He was looking for something outside of work to engage his mind and enhance his professional skills.

“I have taken one class from Dr. Fain and Chris Hunter, and I learned so much,” Guempel said. “When I saw they were teaching this course in the fall, I signed up right away. They get straight to the point and tell you what they see from an audience perspective, and their high-level advice and expertise that they’ve culminated from their experiences makes them trustworthy critics. They are great instructors and are extremely motivated to help you get better.”

Hunter’s passion for public speaking wasn’t always a top priority. At the age of 14, Hunter suffered a stroke, and his dream of becoming a college football player dissolved. He transitioned his focus to speech and debate, began teaching with Fain and later attended the University of Houston while continuing his participation in national speech competitions.

“When I had my stroke, Dr. Fain asked me if I wanted to wallow in the past or be a man of academia. I started to participate in national debate and speech competitions with him as my coach. He is like family to me,” Hunter said. “The generational gap and our different cultural backgrounds create a fun atmosphere in the classroom that is beneficial to our students. It’s the perfect balance. We have similar philosophies, but ultimately show different perspectives on delivering a speech.”

Fain joined the Glasscock School in 1985 teaching Effective Public Speaking, and he has been volunteering and coaching at Houston schools along with hosting speech and debate camps since 1984. He has connections to more than 25 schools in the city, ranging from primary and secondary schools to universities. All of Fain’s students combined have won an estimated 2,000 awards.

“One of my ultimate accomplishments has been teaching with Chris. He has grown so much,” Fain said. “The Glasscock School has been overwhelmingly supportive of what I’ve wanted to do with this class and we’ve developed a great relationship. I feel like a sculptor who has been given great resources to chisel a class that allows me to consistently work with highly motivated students who want a specific set of skills taught by experts.”

Between the two, Fain and Hunter have earned more than 275 awards for public speaking, and since 1990, more than 1,350 students have enrolled in Fain’s (since 2004, Fain and Hunter’s) public speaking classes. The course has experienced steady enrollments as the need for effective communication becomes more prevalent in most job industries. The high demand for Effective Public Speaking has made it necessary to create additional sections and motivated the instructors to create an extension of the class.

“When I turned 18, I received my first contract from the Glasscock School for an assistant teaching role,” Hunter said. “We wanted to show students that age and job titles have nothing to do with the ability to effectively communicate. The Glasscock School gave a kid an opportunity when they didn’t have to, and Dr. Fain saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. We’ve been teaching together for 12 years, and the experience inspired me to become an educator. We created a product that will help students further develop their skills and hopefully, inspire them as well. Public Speaking Lab can help people become the best version of themselves.”

Join the public speaking family this fall. Class starts soon. Register today!

Michelle Paetow


Michelle Paetow, Marketing Specialist

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