I Saw Excellence

I’m a firm believer in the statement: What gets rewarded, gets repeated.

With that being said, I need to tell you a story. A story about excellence. In fact, it is a story about excellent excellence.


Here goes…Once upon a time I had the privilege of hiring an Assistant Director to work alongside me in my role as Director of Campus Life on our campus. I say, privilege, because the person I brought on board was a former student by the name of Kenton.

Kenton was one of our University’s finest student leaders. As he assumed the role of Assistant Director of Campus Life, he quickly demonstrated the of value he brought to the position, to students, and to the campus of his Alma Mater.

The heart of my story takes place this past weekend. Kenton had been working closely with one of our current student leaders – let’s call him, Rob (because that’s his name) on an event that would take two commercial buses full of students down on a shotgun trip to Disneyland (students had earned a free ticket from Disney by helping locally with a Haiti relief effort). The plan (known as Plan A) was to leave campus at 5pm on Friday, drive all night (15 hours), arrive on the doorstep of Disney on Saturday when they opened their gates, play all day at the Happiest Place On Earth, get on the buses at midnight, and drive home, arriving back on campus around 5pm on Sunday. It had all the makings of a great weekend and experience.

Until one of the buses broke down 10 minutes after leaving the campus on Friday night.

At this point in the story, I must resort to bullet points. I want you to know all of the ways that I saw excellence displayed…

  • Kenton and Rob were on the bus that broke down. They told the other bus to go ahead when they realized that the bus they were on probably wouldn’t make it. In this way, they didn’t cancel the trip for those who could still make it to Disney. The “good bus” (the one that worked) went on it’s way with Plan A. Excellence isn’t a one time event but a lifestyle.
  • When Kenton and Rob realized that the “bad bus” (the one that wasn’t working) would not make it and was returning to campus, they started brainstorming and coming up with a Plan B. Excellence doesn’t give up.
  • Kenton called me and told me what was up (I wasn’t on the trip with them). But he didn’t just ask, “What should we do?”, he had a few ideas already in mind and bounced them off me. Excellence is bringing something to the table rather than asking your supervisor what to do all the time.
  • Kenton and Rob…and this is an important point – especially if you work with student leaders. Kenton continued to work with Rob (who had initially put the event together) throughout the process. Kenton walked alongside Rob in the problem-solving portion. Kenton continued to allow the student leader (let’s call him Rob) to continue leading! Rob gained valuable experience because he had to play a key role in both the good and the bad parts of the event. Excellence is empowering other people to do good work.
  • Kenton and Rob came up with Plan B. They would head back to campus. The bus company would provide another bus (hopefully, a “good bus”), but they couldn’t get it until midnight (Disney was no longer an option). So they decided to take the group to Lagoon (an amusement park right outside of Salt Lake City). They would get the group (all who wanted to go) back together at 3:30am and head down to Utah. Excellence is overcoming obstacles with options.
  • Now here’s the cool part…not only would they take the “bad bus” group to Lagoon, but they took them out to a really nice dinner after Lagoon (Lagoon closes at 7pm). Then…when the students arrived back on campus that night, they had gotten t-shirts printed up that were waiting for everyone. Across the front of the t-shirt it said, “I almost went to Disneyland.” Excellence doesn’t just do what’s required or the least amount to get by, it goes farther by doing the little extra things that make a moment memorable.

Let’s step away from the bullet points for a moment. On Monday, a group of students from the “bad bus” presented Kenton and Rob with a poster (see image to the right) that many of them had signed thanking them for all they had done to make the weekend “extra” special. No one felt like they had missed out. In fact, they were so appreciative of what happened that they felt like their weekend turned out EVEN BETTER than the folk who were on the “good bus.”

I hope you’re as inspired as I am by the efforts of Kenton. I am honored to work with him as a peer and partner. Together, we are Team Campus Life.

I just wanted the world to know what excellence looks like!

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  1. Enablement. What I appreciate most about Kenton and the Campus Life Team at NNU is the philosophy expecting but also enabling student leaders to strive for excellence. Everyone on the Team is committed to producing an excellent student experience. That's an important foundation. However, more importantly, the way in which that "excellent student experience" is produced is never micromanaged or dictated from the top down. I have never felt more creatively enabled to solve a problem and simultaneously strive for excellence than on this "failed" Disneyland trip. Thank you Kenton and Tim for enabling (and expecting) me to strive for excellence.

    "Meat: The Happiest Place on Earth"

  2. That event will probably turn out to be a story that is shared with others for many years to come, a memory made that lasts a lifetime. Good work Kenton and Whatever-his-name-is 😉 !! Brilliant!

  3. The girls from Dooley that were on the "bad bus" are still talking about how amazing the Utah trip turned out. They are so grateful for Kenton and Rob going "the extra mile" making the week-end an awesome event and memory. Great job making a difference!

  4. Kenton and Rob, what a great example of quick, creative thinking. You guys are amazing!

  5. Kenton is an amazing director! This story encouraged and inspired me. Thanks!

  6. What a "wow" weekend — so proud of the work of Kenton and Rob (is that his real name?) 🙂 I'm glad to be part of a team that strives for excellence!

  7. It is a privilege to work with Kenton, thanks for sharing the "excellent" story Tim!

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