TITLE: No More Complaints AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 25, 2007 8:14 AM DESC: ----- BODY: ... about being too busy to do my job well. Monday night, I attended my university's senior recognition banquet for intercollegiate athletes. One of the academic award winners is on the track and field team. He is a math major. In his first semester as a freshman, he came in and took three junior/senior level math courses. In later semesters, he took as many as five and six math courses. Some were master's level courses, because there were not enough undergraduate courses to keep him busy. Track and field is unusual among intercollegiate sports in having competitive seasons in both the fall and the spring. Yet in the spring of his junior year, this young man took 24 credit hours -- 8 courses, including 5 math courses. This spring, he is taking 24 credit hours. I forget how many math courses are in the mix, but the number has gone down; he has exhausted the department's undergraduate curriculum and taken most of its graduate courses. His GPA is nearly 4.0. Let's not forget that he is an athlete, a pole vaulter, and so has practice and training nearly every day. And he's not just a member of the practice squad, having fun but saving his energy for his schoolwork. He is a 5-time conference champion and a 4-time All-American. Oh, and he is a pretty good programmer, too, who took several CS courses his freshman year. That year he was a member of our department's programming team, which placed in the regional competition. He toyed with double majoring in CS, but there are only so many hours in a day, you know. This young man has been busy, but he has excelled both on the field and in the classroom -- and I do mean "excelled", not the watered-down sense of the word as we too often use it these days. Actually, attending the athlete's recognition banquet would open the eyes of most university faculty, who have very little sense of just how impressive these young men and women are. In the news we mostly hear about athletic exploits or about misbehavior. You don't hear about the lady soccer player carrying a 3.9 GPA in biomedical science, or the wrestler who double majors in humanities and philosophy, or the women's tennis team made up of players from all across the globe, studying in a second language (some just learning English) and earning a team GPA of 3.59. These student-athletes are the typical case at my university, not the exception. If you seek excellence, do your best to be among others who seek excellence. Don't limit yourself to one sort of person, especially to people who do what you do. Inspiration can come from people working in all arenas, and you may well learn something from someone who thinks about the world in a different way. And that includes young people, even pole vaulters. -----