Stein Dedicates Career to Education

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Kristen Bailey
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John Stein, Tech's vice president of Student Life, has spent his career hoping others find the same value in education that he did.

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John Stein, Tech's vice president of Student Life, has spent his career hoping others find the same value in education that he did.

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John Stein, who has worked at Tech since 2002 and been dean of students since 2006, spends a lot of time on campus. 

In addition to a regular (or not so regular) work week, he attends weekly evening meetings of the Student Government Association as the group’s advisor — meetings that can sometimes run into the wee hours of the morning — and many weekend activities that occur during the academic year. He is on call 24/7 when students are in trouble or during an emergency situation, and meets with around 100 students per semester for various reasons. He even voluntarily teaches GT 1000, the first-year seminar course, and will teach it for the 14th time this fall.

After nine years on the job, though, he still feels blessed by his work.

“I’ve never questioned or regretted what I’m doing,” he said. “As much as you give, you get that much back.”

As of August 1, Stein is now also vice president of the newly named Division of Student Life. While some would balk at the added responsibility, Stein feels privileged to be the one representing students at this level of the administration. 

Stein got his start in the student affairs world working in campus housing, eventually transitioning into a role at Skidmore College that combined residency with clinical care and mental health issues. 

“It was the perfect training ground for being a dean,” he said. “I learned to sit with things in a reasonable and comfortable way.”

After being dean of students at two small private colleges, Manhattanville College and Sarah Lawrence College, Stein stepped down to find a position that was more suitable for his stage of life — at the time, he had two young children, but was seeing more of everyone else’s kids than his own. The experience led to a life lesson that, no matter the opinions of others, you have to make your own decisions.

“Everyone told me not to step down,” he said. “They were people I trusted who gave good advice. I knew what I had to do, though. No one understands your circumstances better than you do.”

When he found the position at Georgia Tech to be director of Success Programs, it was “a dream job.” He, his wife, and two children (now both in their 20s) moved to Atlanta without ever having visited. 

“It was all the things I had loved and been involved in when I was in college,” he said. As an undergraduate psychology major at State University of New York at Oneonta, Stein had been heavily involved in many activities on campus, including as an orientation leader, admissions tour guide, and teaching assistant. He was considering graduate school in psychology when a conversation with the assistant vice president of student affairs proposed the idea of a career in higher education. 

“That conversation planted the seed,” he said.

Staying Balanced

Outside of his on-campus responsibilities, Stein has managed to find the time to run 11 half marathons and one full marathon since taking up running at age 50. He started out training for a half marathon. His wife told him he was crazy. His son once came looking for him when he had been out running too long (to Stein’s credit, he was fine — it was just a long run). Even when he’s not training for a race, he participates in a weekly running group on Saturday mornings.

“Running keeps me balanced,” he said. “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Once a year he uses running to fundraise for cystic fibrosis, to which he has a family connection, and has personally raised more than $30,000 through his efforts (much of which he credits to generous Georgia Tech colleagues).

Thanks to a move to a new house two years ago that backs up to a lake, Stein can now practice two of his other favorite hobbies, kayaking and fishing, right in his own back yard. 

He also loves movies and books, particularly memoirs of lesser-known individuals. His favorite book, though, is To Kill A Mockingbird — and not just because of Harper Lee’s new release (which he has, but has not yet read.)  

Staying Inspired

Stein’s wife, Sue, jokes that he never really left college. He has dedicated his career to education in hopes that it can do for others what it has done for him — and because he loves to keep learning. As a first-generation college student, coming from a single-parent family of four, Stein places a high value on the transformational role of education. He credits it, plus mentors and hard work, for getting him to this point.

Though his job revolves around serving students, the larger Tech community also keeps Stein going. He gives other Tech employees the same advice he gives his GT 1000 students: explore all that Tech has to offer.

“Go do something you don’t even think you’re interested in. Go to a sporting event or a poetry reading,” he said. “This is a place that’s on the rise. To be involved in a place on that trajectory is a privilege.”

In a field where he’s always on call and often dealing with other people’s problems, he avoids burnout by drawing inspiration from the students he serves.

“I get to know so many students’ stories,” he said. “Seeing those students walk across the stage at Commencement and knowing the stamina and resiliency it takes to get to that point, it’s inspiring.”

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dean of students, employee, john stein, profile, staff, student affairs, Student Life
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  • Created By: Kristen Bailey
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Aug 3, 2015 - 7:24am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:19pm