Upon entering the collegiate world, students often look at their professor and think they have everything figured out. It’s easy to forget that professors were once in their shoes trying to navigate life and figure out which major or career to pursue.
The life of Kevin Stein, a professor of communication, illustrates that it is okay if it takes a person some time to find their path. And that a student should never give up on their potential.
Stein was born in California and moved to Cedar City when he was 14. He attended Cedar High and is an SUU alumnus. After receiving his undergrad in communications, Stein went on to earn a Master’s in speech communication at Idaho State University. He then continued his education at the University of Missouri to receive a doctorate in communication with an emphasis in rhetoric and political communication.
But not long ago, he was just a college student trying to figure out what to do.
“I was one of those kids that graduated with a 180 credited hours,” said Stein. “I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I found out I was one course shy of a creative writing degree and one course shy of my communication degree. I looked at the schedule and the semester I was trying to graduate and the communication course was offered and the creative writing wasn’t.”
Stein chose to come to SUU because of the nationally-ranked debate team and even received a debate scholarship. However, being on the debate team was very time consuming. Stein would travel so frequently that he failed out of his classes twice.
“I like to tell people I was thrown out of SUU twice,” said Stein. “Then I got a job here and started teaching in classrooms where I failed classes. Then I became Faculty Senate President, and now I have reached the rank of full professor, after failing out of this very institution.”
Stein’s experience as an undergrad helped him become a better teacher and mentor for students who may not be realizing their potential.
“[That experience] makes me recognize that sometimes students think they don’t have potential, [I know] that they do and help them realise that. I am a firm believer that present performance is not always a perfect indicator of your future potential.”
The impact Stein had has on SUU since he was hired by in 2005 is noticed by faculty members and students alike.
Matt Barton, Professor of Communication and Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Communication, has worked with Stein for the past 14 years.
“Kevin is a fantastic professor because he’s current in his field and innovative in the way he shares content with students, but most of all, it’s Kevin’s genuine interest in student success and future happiness in life and career that drives him,” said Barton.
The passion Stein has for his students helped him succeed during a year long sabbatical teaching at the Hunan Normal University in Changsha China. Although, it did not come without its challenges
When Stein and his family moved to China, he had five kids under the age of 14. They lived in an apartment with barely any furniture and didn’t have a stove. Since they are of a different ethnicity, they also received a lot of “unwanted attention.”
Over the course of his sabbatical, Stein had the opportunity to teach over 750 students, which allowed him to push himself and grow as a professor.
“Some of the things that I do [at SUU] like discussion and humor do not work over there. So being out of my comfort zone really helped me rethink my whole approach to teaching and what I was doing right and what I could do better.”
Looking back on the experience, Stein wouldn’t have changed a moment of his time in China.
“There is something amazing about taking your young family to another country and have them experience the challenges of that. All my children came back with a totally different world view, and so did I.”
Stein enjoyed teaching at the Hunan Normal University, but SUU will always be home.
“I believe our students are as smart as any students anywhere else across the country, but they are here at this small school and I like that. I feel like we have better students and better faculty than our size would imply.”
When Stein isn’t in the classroom, he looks for opportunities to interact with students where he can help them see their full potential.
“I like those interactions when I can help students feel like they have a chance of doing something great.”
Story by: Cassidy Harmon
Photos courtesy of: Kevin Stien