Stein has been a fixture in American politics for years.
But she was still a student at Yale in the mid-1980s, when she decided to take a course in sociology that she would never get to finish.
Her father, a former U.S. Marine, was a Vietnam veteran, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom.
“My mom didn’t want me to be in a college program,” Stein says.
“I thought, I’m not going to be a loser.
I’m going to get a degree.
I want to go to a great university.
That was the vision.”
But Stein’s dreams of studying sociology weren’t realized.
“They had no idea what I was capable of,” she says.
Her first semester in college was a disaster.
“It was just the worst experience of my life,” she recalls.
She went home and wrote her dissertation, but it was all for naught.
“When I got out, I didn’t know what to do,” she tells the HuffPost.
She had an internship at a law firm in Connecticut.
“But my dream job came in the fall,” she adds.
“So I applied to law school.”
She enrolled at New York University’s Stern School of Business, but the school’s dean, Peter Tashkin, was skeptical of her chances.
Stein took a class at a local university and enrolled in the class, which included a discussion of the psychology of success.
“We had a few students in there who had been through a lot of stuff,” Stein recalls.
“That was kind of an eye opener for me.”
The Stern School, like most Ivy League schools, has a rigorous application process.
“You have to prove to us that you have the ability to do this coursework,” Tashkins says.
Stein’s professor was skeptical.
“She said, ‘I don’t see how you can do this,'” Stein says, “and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I can do it.’
I mean, I have all of the things I need to do.
I’ve had all of my professors come to me with advice, but I didn`t have the tools to do it.”
Stein eventually applied to Rutgers University and earned a master’s degree in political science in 2006.
Her dissertation was an extension of her own work in social psychology, and it took Stein an entire semester to finish it.
“What was so frustrating was that there was so little time for preparation,” Stein continues.
“If you do it for the sake of it, it doesn’t work.”
But she did get a chance to finish the dissertation.
“After that, I was working on another one of my dissertation projects,” she recounts.
Stein enrolled in a master in human development at a community college in Georgia.
“There was a big push to teach that coursework, but you can’t teach it in a class,” Stein explains.
She was still stuck in a program that was “not a very good fit for me,” she admits.
“And then I started a graduate school.
I was able to do a lot more.”
Stein returned to New York and took a graduate program in sociology at Queens College, a school she had always wanted to attend.
“All of my classmates were from the suburbs, they were not very smart, and I wanted to be more than just a grad student,” she reflects.
“Then they said, well, we`re going to teach you in a really big program.
And I was just like, I can’t do that.
It`s not like I can just get a four-year degree.”
She took the program she had worked on in sociology, and she enrolled at a liberal arts college in New Jersey.
“At that time, the whole thing was a kind of fantasy,” Stein admits.
But by the time she graduated from the school in 2010, she had made it to her first semester of graduate school, and “I was really proud of what I did.”
“My professors were very impressed,” Stein tells the Huffington Post.
“In fact, they said they were really proud that I got this job, because I was a smart girl and a great student.”
Stein’s professors were impressed, too.
“Their whole experience was just so positive and so inspiring,” Stein adds.
It was during this period that Stein was inspired to take up a new field of study, a subject that her professors had never taught her before.
“The one thing that struck me is that they really knew their stuff,” she explains.
“Even though they didn’t have a whole lot of resources, they knew what they were talking about.
They knew the basics, and that was just what made them so great.
I got really inspired by that, too.”
Stein became interested in the intersection of education and the workplace.
In 2012, she became the director of the New York State Teachers’ Federation, an organization that works to expand teacher training and pay.
“By the time I took