A Message from Gage Paine

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs

Gage Paine, Vice President for Student Affairs

In writing the Strategic Plan for 2013-2018, we set a Strategic Goal to “create a shared culture that values and includes all students (Strategic Goal 2).” One of the outcomes from this goal is that “Student Affairs will develop a defined culture of excellence that supports individual students.” It included two action steps necessary to achieve this outcome. First we need to “define the ‘culture of excellence’ for the Division” and second, we’ll need to “implement a Division-wide culture of excellence.” Thanks to everyone’s good work, we can check off one of our strategic action steps, but now the truly challenging work begins – implementation.

I can find neither the source nor the exact quote for the idea that immediately comes to mind, but I believe it is valuable so I’ll paraphrase it like this: Leadership, like happiness, is not a goal, but a result. I would add that the same is true about excellence. That’s why I’m happy we decided to create a culture of excellence. For me it means we work on understanding the importance of Aristotle’s quote above. Excellence is not something achieved and then we relax. Excellence is the sum total of what we do each day, all year long. Every time we make a decision, anytime we interact with another person, we have to be reaching for excellence. We have to develop the habit of excellence and we have to support each other in living the habit of excellence.

Organizational culture is fractal in nature according to Margaret Wheatley in her work, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. “I can’t think of any organization that isn’t deeply patterned with self-similar behaviors evident everywhere,” she writes. Our work to define the culture of excellence for our Division is our attempt to understand the behaviors that will continually move us toward excellence so those behaviors can be replicated over and over in every interaction or decision. In this way, excellence is not the goal to achieve. Instead it is the result of all our actions and the fact that we have a habit of doing excellent work – every day, every interaction, all year long.

To create a culture of excellence, a habit of excellence, we have agreed that these four words will guide our work: Partner, Participate, Progress, Purpose. In the next four newsletters, I will share my thoughts on each word along with the phrases we decided upon to guide our work. I hope you will spend time individually and within your departmental groups thinking about what each of these words mean for you and your colleagues and find ways to act on them. I look forward to hearing about those thoughts and discussions and seeing the results of our shared habit of excellence over the coming weeks and months.

Have a great November!