EXCLUSIVE: Stories recently got to have a chat with Ulster’s very own Dean, VP, and educator — the sterling Kevin Stoner. A man who moves in silence and thinks in volumes, a powerfully inquisitive mind, a monolith of philosophy; the Dean’s academic acumen is beyond measure. Sitting at his desk with his hands forming a triangle, peering above his glasses in signature style, Kevin Stoner tells us what it means — to be the Dean.
“Deans are a very different sort of creature that exist only in the academic realm, in that we are first among equals, in other words, we are all peers and colleagues in academe, and it’s my privilege to lead, through consensus, the group of my peers…It’s challenging, but the best part of the job is that no 2 days are really alike. I never intended to be a Dean, I was at a training at Harvard some years ago, and they dubbed everyone in the team, everyone got a nickname. Mine was the ‘accidental administrator’ — they did that because I never had that as a career goal, never saw myself doing that, never aspired to that. I moved into administration from a full time faculty position, reluctantly, and I did so because I’d been involved with Middle States accreditation, and so I knew the backside of academe. It’s very much like understanding how the kitchen works, once you understand how it does, it becomes very difficult to go back outside again. I realized that if I wanted to affect change, the best way to do it was through administration…The things I often say to first year students are that your first semester GPA is absolutely critical, it becomes very difficult to ever recover from a bad first semester. To the extent that one can, they should think of college as a job, it’s an obligation; not something that comes tenth or eleventh in life. I also realize that for some students, there are other things that must come first, and so my advice is to always nudge it as close to the top as you can…And also, take every single shred of experience that you can from college: pick your teacher’s brains, pick your peer’s brains, get involved, think — live this college life. My own mother told me when I was a child that I would look back on these college years and think it was the happiest and best time of my life. At the time, I was like ‘yeah-yeah-sure’, but, she was right. Enjoy this time, as it may be the last time, for many people, to pursue pure knowledge.”
FUN FACTS: As for the Dean’s musical tastes, he likes Gretchen Wilson, and expressed a particular affection for ‘80’s hair-metal group; Whitesnake.