Five Questions with Steve Regan
For Steve Regan, public health brings his life experiences full circle.
Name: Steve Regan
Position: Assistant dean for human resources, Gillings School
Years at Gillings: Three
What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I think of myself as someone who assists others in doing well in their roles. I’m more of a coach than a manager or director. For me, success means that I’ve helped someone else achieve a goal.
My favorite thing about my job is the reward of knowing I can make an impact by helping another person through a difficult process. We all bring issues from work home with us, and we also bring issues from our life back into the office. Everything overlaps, and I try to support people and be real with them. It’s an honor when people invite you into their lives, and I’m here to be a resource both professionally and personally. Other than that, I love my work team! They’re all caring people with a lot of heart.
The first job I ever had: was with the Niagara-Mohawk Power Corporation. I was a “gopher” for the maintenance team that serviced the generators. I helped carry tools back and forth, did a lot of cleaning and basically supported the other guys with whatever they needed. There was a lot of camaraderie with that group, and the job taught me how to work hard, stay safe and keep my sense of humor.
Just before coming to UNC, I worked in international disaster relief with an organization called Samaritan’s Purse. In 2010, when the earthquake hit Haiti, I joined a response team. That experience changed my entire perspective on life. I stayed for a month, and then returned two more times – it was my introduction to public health. (For example, I witnessed a devastating cholera outbreak that happened due to water contamination.) That experience has everything to do with why I eventually sought out this job. Some people can work in direct disaster relief their whole lives, but I wanted to find a way to support that good work without always being in the field myself. So, by being there for our faculty and staff who directly touch the lives of others, I feel that things have come full circle for me.
Something unique in my office is: my whiteboard! I have a long history of outstanding mentors, and my whiteboard is a collection of ideas and quotes I’ve gathered from them throughout my career. People always threaten to erase my board because it looks so crowded, but the things it reminds me of every day really help me to help others.
Something most people don’t know about me: is that, when I was young, I wanted to become either a police officer or a professional baseball player or coach. (My dad played in a semi-professional league, and I grew up playing pick-up games in a field with my three older brothers and all our neighbors.) I actually did play first base during my freshman year of college, but that dream ended there. After graduation, I moved to Dallas to work as a physical education director for the YMCA. Eventually, a friend invited me to ride along with him in his job as a police officer, and I saw the positive side of that field and remembered my early dream. I became a police officer myself and worked on the force for almost five years. I eventually transitioned into human resources when my wife and I moved back to the northeast to raise our children closer to family.
Speaking of my wife… Another thing people may not know is that we’ve been together since we were both 16! Her name is Jerrine, and we just celebrated our fortieth anniversary. She’s the single most patient and understanding person I’ve ever met.
If I could wake up tomorrow as an expert in a new skill: I’d be a professional songwriter and guitar player. I do both things now for my personal therapy. Back when we were in our early twenties, Jerrine and I used to perform together in coffee houses. The songs I write these days tend to be in a folk or country vein – think Willie Nelson. The lyrics are meaningful to me, and writing them calms me down and helps me regain perspective on what’s important.