Stuart Robinson is an accomplished educator, coach, and advocate known for his unwavering commitment to education and youth empowerment. Raised in Harlem, New York City, he embarked on a transformative educational journey that led him to excel academically and become a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion. Stuart’s career includes roles in admissions, coaching, and leadership in various educational institutions, culminating in his former position as Assistant VP for Student Affairs/Director of Athletics at NYU. As a single adoptive father of five boys, he is deeply dedicated to creating opportunities for underserved children. Stuart’s story is a testament to the transformative power of education and mentorship in empowering communities.
Exploring Diversity and Leadership: A Conversation with Stuart Robinson NYU
Stuart, your educational journey has taken you from public schools in New York City to prestigious institutions like Williams College and Middlebury College. Can you share how your early education influenced your path and values?
Stuart Robinson: My early education in New York City’s public schools provided a foundation, but it was a pivotal moment when I transitioned to the Allen Stevenson School on the Upper East Side in sixth grade. This change challenged me academically and introduced me to organized sports, which became a significant part of my life. It set the stage for my commitment to academic excellence and my passion for sports.
You’ve mentioned your family’s strong commitment to education. How has that influenced your perspective on the importance of education in shaping lives?
Stuart Robinson: Education has always been central in my family. I have one sister and a brother, and all three of us were the first in our family to attend college and go on to get Master’s degrees. My mother believed that education was a gift that no one could take away from us. Her sacrifices and her belief in the power of education inspired me to pursue academic excellence and help others access educational opportunities beyond what they thought possible.
You graduated with honors in African American Literature from Williams College and continued your commitment to leadership roles. Can you tell us about your college experiences and how they shaped your values?
Stuart Robinson: At Williams College, I was actively involved in leadership roles as the President of the Student Council and President of the Junior Advisors. I also dabbled in sports, playing JV soccer and Varsity baseball for one year. My time at Williams was a period of growth and learning, where I gained an appreciation for diversity in education. It was the place where I really began to recognize the opportunity that I had because of the people at the school. It was there that I experienced challenges academically and socially. It was there where I learned to navigate those obstacles with confidence. This commitment to diversity was further expressed during my time at Middlebury College. Spending my summers with teachers from all over the country opened my eyes further to the diversity of experiences around the country. I heard stories from rural teachers. I enjoyed time with people who had a passion for teaching. It inspired me when I delivered the student commencement speech, titled “Dancing without Collisions,” encouraging diversification within the student population.
Your career has spanned education and athletics, including roles at Vassar College, coaching soccer, and your current position at NYU. Can you highlight some key experiences from your professional journey?
Stuart Robinson: My career has been incredibly fulfilling. I’ve worked in admissions with a focus on minority recruitment, served as an advisor to minority students, and coached soccer at various institutions. I have served on various committees on and off campuses. My time as the Assistant VP for Student Affairs/Director of Athletics at NYU had been particularly rewarding. Beyond my work, I’ve been involved in educational initiatives, such as the AnBryce Scholars Program at NYU, advocating for opportunities for underserved students. With each opportunity I had the chance to learn from and to share insights with amazing people. In each of those situations, it was not about age, race, gender or sexuality. It was about growing.
As a single adoptive father of five boys, you’ve mentioned a passion for creating opportunities for underserved children. Can you share more about your personal mission in this regard?
Stuart Robinson: Being a father to my sons has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My commitment to creating opportunities for underserved children extends beyond my professional life; it’s a personal mission. Adopting preteen and teenage sons has given me enough material to write a novel if I chose to. While the journey has not always been smooth, what I’ve learned from them and being there for them has been priceless. If there is something that I have learned from them is the ability to handle and to navigate change. They had to accept change, and I had to learn to do the same because my way was not the only way.
Your coaching career has seen you win Coach of the Year awards and sectional titles in sports. Can you share your philosophy as a coach and what motivates you in this role?
Stuart Robinson: Coaching is teaching. My philosophy centers on instilling values like teamwork, perseverance, and dedication. Winning titles is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the teams I’ve had the privilege to coach. What motivates me is the desire to help young athletes grow as individuals and achieve their potential, both on and off the field. Getting to watch my players succeed on the field or the court; but more importantly, to see how they have grown beyond the field or court is what motivated me the most.
In your journey, you’ve faced challenges related to race and personality. How have you navigated these challenges and what strategies have you employed to overcome them?
Stuart Robinson: Challenges have come in various forms, from questions about my racial identity to misconceptions about my reserved personality. To overcome them, I’ve adopted a deliberate and thoughtful approach, emphasizing listening and analyzing situations before responding. Engaging more with people socially and sharing more about myself has also helped build deeper connections. Yet, I am also realizing that I still need to grow. I must recognize that I need to become more aware generationally. The way that I learn and share knowledge needs to be more mindful of where others are. Not everyone wants to know my journey as an example. I must continue to learn and grow. This is what allows me to navigate challenges.
Finally, what advice would you offer to aspiring leaders and advocates in the fields of education and athletics?
Stuart Robinson: I would encourage aspiring leaders to embrace servant leadership, where the focus is on others. I always think of myself as a sort of “stage manager.” I have seen my work as setting the stage so that others can succeed. You see, for me, it has never been about me. To me it is an opportunity to pay it forward. Listening should precede action, and a commitment to continuous learning and growth is essential. I think that this is even more important today with the way the world is. Seek mentors who challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and maintain a thirst for knowledge. Leadership in these fields is about empowering individuals to achieve their goals.
Finally, What does success look like to you?
Stuart Robinson: Success, to me, is about helping others achieve goals or objectives they might not have thought attainable. It’s about empowering individuals to find their own voices and reach their full potential. Success is not just a personal achievement but a way to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
- The Power of Servant Leadership: Stuart Robinson emphasizes the importance of servant leadership, where the focus is on others. He highlights the value of listening before taking action and continually seeking opportunities for growth and learning. This approach has been central to his success in both education and athletics.
- Empowering Through Education: Stuart’s journey underscores the transformative power of education and mentorship. His commitment to diversity and inclusion in education, along with his advocacy for underserved students, serves as a model for aspiring leaders looking to make a positive impact on their communities.
- Resilience and Overcoming Challenges: Stuart Robinson’s ability to overcome challenges related to race and personality by adopting a deliberate and thoughtful approach is a valuable lesson. His emphasis on building deeper connections and remaining open to learning highlights the importance of adaptability and resilience in leadership.