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From excellence to eminence: Thoughts of an Office of Student Life graduate student

Bowen Marshall
April 25, 2012

Graduate Administrative Associate Bowen Marshall ('11 MA, Physical and Exercise Science) manages Open Doors for the Multicultural Center in the Office of Student Life. The program seeks to create a safe and welcoming environment at The Ohio State University. Bowen, of Pleasanton, Kansas, is a doctoral student in Counselor Education, advised by Professor Darcy Haag Granello.

Bowen Marshall

Recently, my director, Dr. Davida Haywood, approached me with a document outlining what the Multicultural Center's vision for the future was to be under her leadership. It was a phenomenal document that worked that delicate but powerful line between what is dreamable and what is achievable. One of the key components of this document was about the Open Doors project, which I manage, and its integration into the exceptional student experience we are working toward in the Office of Student Life.

I was both honored and humbled by the highlighting of this program that I have worked on for two years and am so excited to see what it will become. I am hopeful that the impact it will have on the lives of our students and staff at Ohio State will be positive and widespread.

A day later, I was reading "On Fame," a Huffington Post blog entry by Ricky Gervais, and came across this statement:

I guess I always wanted to be eminent. That's the old word for fame, by the way. Being known for something. Being known for being good at something. Maybe even the best at something. "Fame" used to be fused with "respect" in some ways. That's what distinguished it from infamy.

After reading this, I paused and then pushed my chair back from my desk. I got a coffee from Espress-OH, all the while ruminating on this idea of eminence. A day later, it clicked.

President Gee gave his visionary "Excellence to Eminence Speech" just one month after I arrived at Ohio State in 2009 for my master's program in the School of Physical Activity and Educational Services. At the time, I was so new to this institution and this department that I paid little attention to his words, mainly because I was not yet equipped to understand what they meant for this institution, at this time and with these amazing people.

No. 1 mission: Serving students well

Now, I am starting to get it. In addition to Open Doors at the Multicultural Center, I get to work with an amazing team of people in the Student Wellness Center and the office for the vice president of student life. These people are creating programs and launching ideas like Shift and the Transformational Sophomore Experience that have the power and the honor of changing the lives of our students. I get to work in the department at Ohio State whose Number One mission is serving students and serving them well.

I can only imagine the countless initiatives across Student Life that are reworking and reshaping the excellent work that we do into something that brings us eminence, both with our students and with other universities that see the Office of Student Life at Ohio State as the exemplar in student affairs to which they ascribe.

In his excellence to eminence message, President Gee said, "Each day, I approach my work with a mix of passion and impatience that stems from seeing the institution's exceptional potential."

Truer words could not be spoken in terms of how I feel about the Office of Student Life and the work I do each day. I am excited to see where the Office of Student Life takes us in the next few years, but I am even more excited for the journey that we embark upon together.

With permission from The Ohio State University Multicultural Center.

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