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Spring 2009 | Finding the balance

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Tom Kunkel
An environment of excellence
President Thomas Kunkel

At a national conference I attended not long ago, one of the featured speakers was Paul O’Neill, a respected business leader and President George W. Bush’s first secretary of the Treasury. That, of course, was back in the days when the Treasury job didn’t come with a Superman cape and a $700-billion checking account.

You may recall that O’Neill was rather too blunt and idiosyncratic for Washington, and he lasted just two years before moving on in frustration. But he has always had an interest in education, and so he undertook to talk about leadership lessons for several hundred private-college presidents, many of whom head up bureaucracies that in their complexity and obtuseness can give the feds a run for their money.

One observation I found particularly provocative. O’Neill said that in any organization that is truly excellent, you should be able to stop anyone on the premises – be it a vice president or account executive or night watchman – ask three simple questions, and get an affirmative response to each.

Is everyone in your organization treated with respect and dignity, regardless of task, station or salary?

As an employee, do you get everything you need to do your job well – and in a way that you find personally rewarding?

If you do a good job, is it noticed and remarked upon?

I’m sure like every other college president in the room, I immediately conjured my imaginary visitor walking around my campus asking those three questions – and wondering what kind of answers he was hearing.

I’d like to think they were the “right” answers, and I think in the main they would be. But I also know that St. Norbert College, like most institutions, can always do better in encouraging, and celebrating, work of the highest caliber. Helping create that positive environment is just one aspect of “the pursuit of excellence‚” that I discussed in my inaugural remarks last fall. The talk, of course, is easy. Putting it into practice is not. But we are working on it every day, of that I am sure.

Thus it’s a pleasure to call your attention to some of the excellent people of St. Norbert and the imaginative and important work they are doing. This includes word on our outstanding economics faculty. Kevin Quinn, for instance, has contributed an article on his collaborative work on the economics of the NFL draft, and another article profiles Sandy Odorzynski and her work with educators in emerging economies all over the world.

Speaking of money, it’s a topic that has inspired this issue’s striking cover illustration. Our grateful thanks to outstanding artist Chris Ayers ’97, and to our other alumni contributors, for sharing their talents.

And you’ll also find inside an interesting article on the economics of private education. Here’s a hint: It’s more affordable than many people realize! 

Spring 2009 magazine

Web extras Web exclusives
Look here for web-only content that expands on topics presented in the current St. Norbert College Magazine (PDF).

Photo Gallery Student research
goes Galapagos

Images from one of the world’s best natural laboratories.

Audio Accessible and affordable
An interview to share with anyone considering a college education.

Text Extra Sports and their fans
An excerpt from a new book on the history, economics and culture of the relationship between spectator and sport.

Photo Gallery An aardvark a day
In this gallery of images, animal spirits prevail.

Text Extra Journalist in disguise
A look at two books authored by President Tom Kunkel.

Video Stepping out of the picture
An artist reflects on his recent work.

Story ideas? Your ideas for future magazine stories are most welcome. Write to the editor with any suggestions or comments.

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