Tag Archive: commitment

Decision for Excellence



The vision statement for our School of Education, Health, and Human Services at SUNY Plattsburgh contains a goal of our graduates modeling excellence in their careers. The path to excellence is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement and striving for excellence; walking this path is a decision that conveys a chosen attitude.  Achieving excellence happens during class time, during advisement and mentoring sessions, and during opportunities for leadership training. The path to excellence has many obstacles, including mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and lack of self-discipline. Here are a few topics and quotes you can share with students to help them manage these obstacles.


  • Help students define clearer short-term and long-term goals.
  • Make sure there are no mental health issues impeding motivation; ask about depression and anxiety and seek appropriate supports is necessary.
  • Ask, “In what ways are you currently accepting mediocrity in your studies?” “What is one thing you could do to overcome this?” Adapted from Randy Gage
  • Share with advisees that each semester they learn new skills to be successful, greater potential is possible for the next semester. The skills build on each other and evolve to make greater success in each new semester a possibility. Ask, “What are you doing now to develop these skills?”

Fear and Anxiety

  • The greater the distance between the “real self” and the “ideal self,” the greater the anxiety. Help students focus on acceptance of the current “self” with well-defined steps for meeting short-term goals.
  • Help students reframe some degree of fear or anxiety as a normal feeling if they are growing; we don’t grow when we are comfortable.  Discuss the difference between non-productive anxiety and productive anxiety.
  • Talk about expanding comfort zones, as described by Susan Jeffers, by “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Courage is the key, a great topic for discussion.
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt


  • “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn
  • “The most valuable form of discipline is the one that you impose upon yourself. Don’t wait for things to deteriorate so drastically that someone else [or a policy] must impose discipline in your life.” Jim Rohn
  • “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you think you should be doing rather than doing something based on how you feel.” Brendan Baker
  • In our society, things happen at increasingly faster speeds with greater connectivity. A conversation about delayed gratification is important (e.g., shutting off your phone and focusing for 30 minutes, not allowing yourself to check social media or email for 30-45 minute periods when studying, etc).

There are additional obstacles students face when they have made a decision for excellence such as roommate issues, financial concerns, and family problems; however, addressing mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and self-discipline during advisement and office hours provides a clearer path to success. Help students make a decision for excellence and let them know some lessons that have been on your path. As Sheldon Kopp once remarked, we are not gurus, we all are pilgrims on this path together.


EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

  • Excellence in Teaching
    • Helping Students Achieve Goals
    • Lifelong Learning/Growth

Image (n.d.) Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://refe99.com/quotes/excellence/

Gage, R. (n.d.). Fighting mediocrity. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from:  http://www.randygage.com/fighting-mediocrity/

Jeffers, S. (2007). Feel the fear and do it anyway: Dynamic techniques for turning fear, indecision and anger into power, action and love. Santa Monica, CA: Jeffers Press.

Kopp, S. (1980). If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him: The pilgrimage of psychotherapy patients. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Rohn, J. (n.d.). The Key to Getting All You Want? Discipline. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://www.success.com/article/rohn-the-key-to-getting-all-you-want-discipline

Second Image (n.d.). Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst104215.html

“Are You A Senior?”

Move In Dan 2015


Nine days ago, I helped families move their children into the dorms.  The hopes and dreams of parents were expressed, sometimes in side conversations that went unheard by their children.  I purposefully have written “children” because as the parents of freshmen were speaking with me, it was as if the years and cherished moments with their children were flashing through their minds.  The parents, seemingly felt more deeply by some of the mothers, were leaving their babies in the hands of an academic institution with the trust that they would receive good care and a great education.  Having just dropped a son off at college the week before, these feelings were fresh in my mind too.

As I carried everything imaginable from refrigerators to bowling balls, I was inspired as I spoke with upper-class students about their studies and their goals.  The parents of these students were pros when it came to moving in with one mother saying, “This gets a lot easier over the years.  We have this down to a fine science.”  She joked about the unnecessary items they brought the first year.  This may best have been exemplified by another mother I saw trying to drag a huge bin toward a dorm that I soon found out belonged to a freshman.  I asked if I could help and she said, “No, I can get it.”  I convinced her to let me help and was shocked by the unbelievable weight of the bin; it was the heaviest of the day.  She spoke with an accent and told me she was from Poland.  The bin was too heavy to lift and she said, “Here, wait” as she opened the bin and removed several 20 pound dumbbells.  Her son, who had reappeared, and I then carried the bin up the stairs to the third floor of the dorm as mom followed with the weights. The whole scene seemed a little unusual to me, so I asked one of our faculty members from Poland about this and she said, “That is what good Polish mothers do, they carry the heavy load.  It’s part of our culture.”   That is one of many stories, in addition to the mother from NYC who sings at the Metropolitan Opera and gave me a demonstration of a vocal warm up before singing a few notes.  Her son did not see this, so embarrassment was averted.

At lunch, I sat with some parents who were tired from all of the moving and appreciative of the food provided by the college.  They told me about their daughter and their hopes for her.  On the other side of me were some students who told many stories about why they love SUNY Plattsburgh.

I had a goal of helping students move into every dorm.  One of the benefits of doing this was speaking with the RAs and RDs as they checked students into their rooms.  Many of the RDs are students in our Student Affairs and Higher Education graduate program.  I was proud of the job they were doing and impressed with their professionalism.

Helping with move-in day reinforced my belief that when we educate students, we have to imagine their current families and the generations before them that sacrificed for them to be in our classes.  We also need to think about the positive outcome receiving an education will have on the student and his/her future family.  It isn’t just one student sitting in our class, our generational responsibility is much bigger than that moment; yet, every one of those moments counts in our common purpose of providing the best learning environment and education possible for our students.

By 3:00pm, I met my goal of moving students into every dorm and had almost 18,000 steps on my Fitbit to prove it.  Meeting families, talking with students, and seeing many from the SUNY Plattsburgh community helping students, made for a rewarding day.

I did not tell people who I was as I helped them move unless they asked.  I typically introduced myself, after multiple trips, when everything was moved into the dorm.  People were surprised and grateful.  My favorite question from a family member before I introduced myself was, “Are you a Senior?”  The answer in my head that I didn’t give was, “I will be in 11 years.”


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