I love to watch sports, particularly at their highest level. While I have always enjoyed watching sports for the excitement and competitiveness, as I age and manage people, I have come to appreciate that sports teams, particularly professional ones, are one of the purest meritocracies. That is, players are on teams almost solely based on what they bring to that team, whether it be a certain athletic skill or leadership ability. Everything in professional sports is about winning and losing. So, a coach or general manager is only going to keep a player on a team based on his or her ability to contribute to winning, because if the team loses, that coach or general manager will be out of a job. So, on a daily basis, player decisions are based on that player’s merit.
If you follow professional sports and you don’t live under a rock, you have certainly heard of the recent phenomenon of “Lin-sanity”. In case you have not, let me fill you in. Over the past two or so weeks, the New York Knicks have won seven straight games in large part due to the exploits of Taiwanese-American point guard and Harvard graduate, Jeremy Lin. Mr. Lin has averaged almost 25 points a game over that stretch and has virtually carried the team on his back.
Even if you follow the NBA only casually, you probably know that there are no other Asian-Americans or Harvard grads in the league. I imagine that neither the Knicks nor Lin’s previous teams, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, signed Lin because of his ethnicity or education. (However, as a side note, all three teams experienced increased attendance and interest from Asian-American fans.) Rather, he was signed due to his ability to contribute to winning and he will remain with the Knicks as long as he is able to do that. So, while Jeremy Lin has made the Knicks and the NBA more diverse, he was not signed to improve the diversity of either entity.
However, as is usually the case, true meritocracies, such as the NBA, lead to diversity. Those who perform best typically don’t all look the same or have the same tangential characteristics that don’t relate to performance. I look at the two academic departments that I chair and the faculty members all look different…….black, white, Asian, Hispanic, various other ethnicities, faiths, and orientations. But, they are the same in one important way……..they are all high-impact performers in teaching, research, and/or service.
Many of my counterparts argue that we need diversity for diversity’s sake. They say that there is no way I can be fair if I do not value diversity more than do. I don’t necessarily agree. Rather, I evaluate from a prism of performance and one of the inevitable results is diversity. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that we “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I’d like to say that I have a similar dream in which people will be judged solely on their merits, which will continue to make us a country of diverse winners.
It’s that time of year! For many of you, it is the time to return gifts or start your new diet and/or fitness program. As the Chair of an academic department (actually 2 departments) at a large institution of higher education, it means two things. First, since Fall Semester just ended, I am receiving grade appeals from students for courses from that term; and second, since annual reviews will take place soon for the faculty members who report to me, I will soon be receiving their inputs concerning their performance for the recently completed calendar year. I have found that most of the grade appeals and some of the faculty inputs have something in common……….a focus on activity, not necessarily achievement.
Allow me to explain. I have had a number of students coming to me to appeal the grades they received; some claiming they deserve a C instead of a D or F and others claiming they deserve an A instead of a B. However, no matter what the grade situation, the argument is very similar. The student indicates that he/she attended all of the classes, did all the readings, and handed in all of the assigned homework and therefore, deserves a higher grade. It does not seem to matter to these students that they did not score high enough on exams or papers to merit such a grade. They want to be recognized for what they had done (activity) rather than how well they had done it (accomplishment). I am startled by such logic and thought maybe it was a generational phenomenon of the “Trophy Kids” (Gen-Y or Millennials), who were often given trophies just for participating in a particular activity as they were growing up.
However, this logic is not limited to the Millennials. In recent years, some of my faculty began turning in their annual review inputs with a similar pattern (however, please note, that this is not the case for a majority of faculty, whereas it is true for a majority of the grade appeals). Some faculty members are focused on what they did rather than what they accomplished. For example, they indicate that they had taught particular classes and served on certain committees, but there were few examples of how good the teaching was or what the committee accomplished.
This phenomenon is not limited to within the walls of academia. Activity over achievement is becoming pervasive in America. I started taking notice of this problem in the 2008 presidential election when Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were praised as great candidatesthough their pasts were scant with achievement. I look forward to seeing our country value achievement again, which I believe is the road to economic vitality and international leadership.
During this holiday season, I have tried to be especially aware of the good going on around us and while doing so, I have become aware of an interesting new program being started in West Cobb. The program, called the “Teacher’s Lunch Box”, is the brainchild of Mr. Matt Sellors, proprietor of the Daily Grind, located just off Due West Road across from Due West United Methodist Church.
The Teacher’s Lunch Box program provides a venue for parents and other community members to reward local teachers for a job well done. By going to its web site, you can treat a teacher to a delicious and healthy lunch that will be delivered right to the teacher’s school. While local schools have a number of formal recognition programs, this program is informal and allows you to reward a teacher you know who has gone out of his or her way to help our students. I recommend exploring the web site to further familiarize yourself with the program and consider rewarding a teacher.
In its early stages, the program is now limited to Due West Elementary and Harrison High School. However, I have heard that Lost Mountain Middle School is likely soon to follow. Encourage your local schools and teachers in West Cobb to sign up and consider rewarding a teacher. Teachers are among the unsung heroes of our community and this looks like a great way to show our appreciation.
Welcome to my blog! Thanks to the Marietta Daily Journal and its editorial staff for the opportunity to share with you my insights in a number of different areas. For my first installment, I’d like to let you know about me so that you have some context for my future postings. I will also provide you some broad topics I will be addressing in this blog. I hope you will check the blog often and feel free to provide comments! Please bear with the length of this posting….future ones will likely be much shorter!
WHO I AM:
I am an administrator and faculty member in the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University (KSU). I joined the faculty of KSU in August 2002 as an Assistant Professor of Management and I have taught courses in our undergraduate, Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive MBA, and Executive Education programs in the areas of Operations Management, Supply Chain Management, Project Management, and Innovation and Technology Management. In February 2006, I was appointed to my current position as Chair of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship on an interim basis and in January 2007, the interim designation was removed. In this role, I lead a department consisting of approximately 40 full-time faculty members and an additional 20 part-time faculty members. In July 2011, I was also appointed Interim Chair of the Department of Information Systems (approximately 20 full-time faculty members) and I will remain in that role until we hire a permanent Chair for that department.
Prior to KSU, I was on the faculty for four years at Bentley College (now Bentley University) in Waltham, Massachusetts which has been recognized in recent years as having one of the top undergraduate business programs in the country. I was hired at Bentley after retiring from a career in the United States Air Force (USAF) in which my last assignment was on the faculty at Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), the USAF’s graduate school located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base just outside of Dayton, Ohio. My primary role in the USAF prior to moving into education was as a Research and Development (R&D) project manager. During my career, I managed programs that were part of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or “Star Wars” program.
I was very fortunate to have much of education funded and supported by the USAF. I had an Air Force ROTC scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, where I earned a B.S. in Applied Mathematics. The USAF then delayed my active duty by two years so that I could earn my M.B.A. from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Finally, I was able to earn my Ph.D. in Operations Management from Georgia Tech with USAF support while on active duty.
Back to KSU………In addition to my formal administrative and faculty duties, I am very involved with Athletics. I served on the Football Exploratory Committee headed by Vince Dooly and on the Athletic Director search that resulted in the hiring of Vaughn Williams. I currently serve on the KSU Athletic Association.
Finally, from a personal perspective, my wife, Lorie, and I and our two daughters, Audie (13) and A.J. (11) live in West Cobb and are members of Due West UMC. I also serve on the Board of Pinetree Country Club as its treasurer.
Now that you know about me, let me tell you about this blog. Since much of my education is in the area of business, this blog will emphasize issues important to Cobb County businesses, large and small. While I might tackle some regional, national, and international business issues, I will do so through a lens that examines the effect of these issues on the local business community. A second topic I will address is higher education, particularly looking at issues impacting KSU, SPSU, and our local students who are or will be attending college. I will also keep you updated on what is happening at KSU, as this is an important year as we search for a new Provost and other key personnel. Finally, I will give you some insight into what is going on in KSU Athletics’ existing teams and as we progress toward the potential addition of football. I look forward to hearing from you with any suggestions you might have for particular topics!