Gardner is a social justice activist and a thought leader on undergraduate student success. He is the non-profit organization's Chief Executive Officer and Chair. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, which he and his wife, Betsy O. Gardner, co-founded. In 1999, I went barefoot. John is also a Senior Fellow and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. He also served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University's five Regional Campuses and as the Founding Executive Director of both the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and the University 101 Programs.