On Excellence

Excellence Winding Road
Article by: Dr. Quintin Bullock, CCAC President

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 excellence:

“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?

It’s action.

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 that?

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!

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