Excellence is a word that conjures up an image of hard work,
determination and shattering expectations. It is also a word that I believe has
suffered from overuse to the point that its true power and essence is often diluted
by clichéd metaphors such as running the extra mile, going for gold or shooting
for the moon.
This month, I’d like to share with you all some of my thoughts
on what I believe best exemplifies the idea of excellence in academics, in work
and in life.
To start, here are a few of my favorite quotations on
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you
develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a
prevailing attitude.” –Colin Powell
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an
act, but a habit.” –Aristotle
“Excellence is being able to perform at a high level over and
over again. You can hit a half-court shot once. That’s just the luck of the
draw. If you consistently do it…that’s excellence.” –Jay-Z
Can you spot the theme in these three quotes?
I believe excellence is defined by action. Excellence is not
a thing one has or is, but something one must continually practice. In order to
achieve true excellence in your studies, your career or your personal life or
hobbies, it is not enough to simply have a talent for something or to rest on
your laurels; you must act and continue to act to the best of your ability.
Excellence is not a finish line to be crossed, the way some metaphors
about excellence can imply. Rather, it is a cycle of continual growth,
improvement and innovation, a dialectic in which the dreams of the past become
the accomplishments of the present which then become the basis upon which
future goals are built.
But I want to stress this: excellence is not about the
pursuit of perfection. It’s not a competition, and it’s not something that
should be used as justification for pushing yourself to unhealthy extremes. It
is simply about doing the best that you can as often as you can. By continually
practicing excellence for its own sake, you can be secure in the knowledge that
you are always working on being your best self. What is more excellent than
Excellence is something that has been at the forefront of my
mind over the past three years. CCAC was recently visited by the Middle States Commission
on Higher Education Evaluation Team as part of an ongoing process of accreditation
to ensure compliance with federal educational standards as well as the MSCHE
Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education.
I’m pleased to report that the preliminary findings are
positive and reflect the hard work and continuous spirit of improvement
exemplified by every member of the CCAC family. I’d like to take a moment to
thank Co-Chairs Kevin Smay and Dr. Stephen Wells as well as the rest of the
Middle States Steering Committee for all of their efforts, energy and, yes,
excellence in this endeavor.
What are your thoughts on excellence? Let me know on Twitter
@QBpresCCAC—I’d love to hear from you!