Let the Madness Begin!

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament Final-Villanova vs Xavier

For the sports fan, it’s one of the best times of the year – March Madness.

My school, Villanova, is one of the prominent teams in this year’s tournament, having earned a number 1 seed after winning the Big East championship. The campus is buzzing with excitement, and I am sure it will be pretty easy to find a place to study in the library on Thursday when Villanova plays Lafayette.

While I have not seen any reports on what happens to student productivity during the NCAA tournament, there have been studies on what happens to worker productivity, and it is startling.

The Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently issued a press release based in part on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which puts the effect of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament into stark relief. It found that employers could lose up to $1.9 billion in wages to the more than 60 million Americans who are in the office solely to watch games and devour bandwidth!

But instead of trying to stop such a loss of productivity, it is recommended that firms embrace the excitement that comes with March Madness. It may be a great opportunity to improve morale and to foster a sense of community. Free food and time away from work can do wonders for employees’ attitudes.  And research has shown that happy employees are more productive employees.

Some firms may want to use March Madness as a time to invite customers, potential customers, and members of the local community to office parties where everyone can watch the game together, in a fun atmosphere. If any business is conducted at the time, that would be a bonus. Such parties are more about building long-term relationships.

So if workplaces can’t overcome the allure of March Madness, you can imagine what it is like on a college campus that has a team in the tournament. There will be a lot of missed classes, and even for those who attend class, there will be a lot of glances at smartphones.

So while I am quite excited about Villanova’s chances, I must admit I’m also relieved that I’m not teaching on Thursday. Accounting is no match for March Madness.


Who’s Your Clarence?

Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class, is one of the most memorable characters from the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Clarence is charged with showing George Bailey how meaningful his life has been, despite George’s wish that he had never been born.

Clarence then goes on to show George what the world would have been like if had never been born, and George starts to realize what a positive impact he has had on others.

I think many of us go through life wondering if what we do makes a difference. Wouldn’t it be nice if we each had our own Clarence, someone who could actually show us the impact we have had on others?

But perhaps instead of waiting for our own personal Clarence to arrive, we can just make a commitment to do work that matters and  have confidence that we are making a difference.

And if you’re still looking for a Clarence, there’s nothing stopping you  from being  Clarence. Show and tell someone else you know that their life has meaning, that the world is a better place because of who they are and what they do.

And that may be one of the best ways we can make a difference; after all, Clarence is the one who earned his wings.


Happy Birthday Mom!


Today is my mom’s 89th birthday.

We just finished spending  the night doing what we do every Friday night, having pizza at her house while watching TV (usually the news followed by Jeopardy followed by Wheel of Fortune).

But despite the familiar routine, it was still a special day.

Over the course of the day she got to see several of her grandchildren, and received phone calls from the others. She even got to see one of her nine great-grandchildren.

As I watched and listened to her interact with them, it was clear that family was the center of her life, and just seeing and hearing from them was the best present she could have received.

She has always shown nothing but unconditional love for her grandchildren, and it is obvious that it has been returned to her in spades.

And while she struggles to hear what people are saying, sometimes just eating pizza and watching TV, surrounded by your loved ones, sends a message loud and clear.

Happy birthday mom, we love you!

Kids Say the Darndest Things

How Long Does It Usually Take You to Settle Your Class Down?”


I should have taken the question as a warning, instead I just treated it as a question from a curious middle-school student.

It happened this past summer as part of a day long boot camp for students from low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia who were interested in entrepreneurship. The students would be running their own businesses later in the summer, and Villanova had developed a partnership with some community groups to teach the students some basic business concepts.

I had been asked to give a 45-minute class on how they could use business tools such as break even analysis to help them manage their businesses as well as how a simple accounting system could help them keep track of their sales and expenses.

The students were organized into two groups by grade level. One group would be high school students and the other group would be middle-school students. Every student was also given a calculator as part of the bootcamp, which we thought would come in handy for some of the hands-on exercises.

The first group I taught was the high school students, and I thought it went quite well. We managed to get through most of the items I had planned to discuss, and the students were engaged the entire 45 minutes (as were the chaperones who had accompanied them), asking some great questions and answering the questions I asked of them.

(The only negative aspect of the class was my apparent ignorance of how much some things cost. I was using an example of a lemonade stand, and going through the list of supplies they would have to purchase to get started. I mentioned that they would need to buy a pitcher to mix the lemonade in, and I mentioned that such a pitcher would cost about $20. I might as well have said $2,000 based on the students and chaperones response. They started asking me if I had ever heard of a dollar store or a thrift shop. I then went on to mention the need for paper cups, and so I said let’s assume you buy 100 cups for $30. The bursts of laughter came even faster this time. I made a mental note to do a little basic research next time…)

Following that first class, there was about a 15-minute break while the students switched classrooms, had a snack, and we got ready for the next session. And despite my ignorance of how much things cost, I must admit I was feeling pretty confident, given the success of the first class.

While the students were filtering in, I tried to talk with a few of them, asking them who their favorite Philly sports team was and if they had any ideas for a business yet. As I was talking to one of the middle school students, he casually asked me “How long does it usually take you to settle your class down?”

Now I must admit that has never been a issue I have had to deal with, in fact it is a question I never even thought about. My first thought was that he just wanted to learn a little bit about how college works, since this was his first time on a college campus.

I explained to him that college students come to class ready to learn, and as soon as class begins every one quiets down. I asked him if getting his class to settle down was an issue at school, and he replied that it was sometimes, and I saw a few students around him nodding their heads in agreement.

I told him that we wouldn’t have to worry about it for our class. After all, I thought to myself, there was no problem with the first group, there would be chaperones present, and I was apparently a master teacher who commands instant respect and has never had a problem getting a class to settle down (hubris is a wonderful trait 🙂 )

I realized later (too late) that he probably wasn’t really asking a question, but issuing a warning.

I also realized a college professor is no match for a class of middle school students.

I knew I couldn’t deliver the same lesson to the middle school students I had given to the highs school students, and I thought I had adjusted my expectations accordingly.

I wanted the students to get some practice with the calculators, thinking this would get them involved with the lesson and keep them busy. So my first question asked them to calculate what the cost per cup is if they bought 100 cups for $30.

It was at that point that things started going downhill, and quickly. The students felt no need to raise their hands to give an answer, preferring to just shout out responses.

I heard one student yell “$3,000”, and I could see how they got that answer, and explained what his mistake was. Another student said $3, and once again I was able to explain what her possible mistake was. But when one student yelled out $7,000, I wasn’t sure if I was dealing with someone who didn’t know how to use a calculator,  someone who did not understand basic math concepts, or a class clown.

Anyway, what I thought was a simple question that would take less than 30 seconds to answer turned into an almost 10 minute discussion. But we got through it, and I tried to move on.

It was about this time that the first student got up to use the restroom. Since I had no true authority over these students and didn’t want to prevent a student who actually had to use the restroom from doing so, I said nothing. I also thought that monitoring such behavior was more the role of the chaperones. I then looked around the room and noticed that there were no chaperones for this class. Where had they all gone? Again, it should have been another warning sign.

It was just a few minutes later when I lost complete control of the class.

Apparently one of the chaperones had fallen out in the hallway, and several members of public safety had rushed over to see if she was OK and what help she needed.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that someone dressed in a police uniform and carrying a nightstick and a walkie-talkie is a lot more appealing to a 12 year old (OK, to anyone) than accounting, and so it did not take long for all of the students’ attention to be drawn to what was happening out in the hallway. Suddenly, almost every student needed to use the restroom.

That essentially brought my class to an end, and when I looked at my notes, I realized I had accomplished nothing that I had planned to do.

It had taken less than 45 minutes to bring me back to reality, to bring me down from the high I had experienced from teaching the older students to the outright failure I experienced from teaching the younger students.

But all was not lost. I learned one important lesson – there can’t be many jobs tougher than being a middle school teacher, so a tip of the hat to all of you for a job well done. You have my utmost respect, and I will never complain about my job, or my students again.

By the way, the cost per cup in my example was 30 cents per cup. A few days later I was walking through Walmart and found a pack of 100 cups for less than $6. Lesson learned…



My Teaching Philosophy

teaching philosophy

As part of my evaluation at work, I have been asked to submit a statement of my teaching philosophy. You would think after 28 years of teaching I would either have such a statement, or at least be able to easily articulate what that philosophy is.

Sadly, I do not have a statement, nor am I able to easily articulate my teaching philosophy. When I mentioned to my wife that I have to write such a statement as well as write a blog tonight, she suggested I make my philosophy of teaching statement my blog for the day. A brilliant idea by my wife, but now it’s my job to execute on that idea.

So without further ado…

My Thoughts on Teaching

If I had to summarize my teaching philosophy in one sentence, it would be a variation on the Golden Rule.

Teach and treat my students as I would like to be taught and treated.

I have been fortunate to have been taught by many great teachers as a student, to have co-taught with several outstanding teachers, and to live with the best teacher I have ever met, my wife. Based on those experiences, there are certain characteristics I feel are essential to being a successful teacher. These characteristics include (in no particular order):

  • Respectful
  • Empathetic
  • Knowledgeable
  • Humorous
  • Passionate
  • Motivational
  • Organized
  • Prepared
  • Creative
  • Challenging
  • Kind
  • Curious

The ideal teacher would be strong along all of these dimensions, and I realize I am far from ideal. I would love to say that I am extremely creative or motivational in the classroom, but I have seen teachers who truly exhibit such traits, and I realize such traits are not my strongest suit.

If I had to select my five strongest traits from this list (self-perceived), I would have to go with Respectful, Empathetic, Humorous, Prepared, and Kind. I believe if I can succeed on these traits, they form a strong foundation for the remaining ones. As the saying goes, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I try to develop a classroom environment where every student feels welcomed and respected, not just by me, but by the other students as well.

I also try to expose students to issues that may have little direct bearing on the course content, but issues that I believe are critical for the long-term success and happiness of the student. I build into my class, as best I can, a few TED (and similar) videos each semester. These videos have looked at such issues as the link between creativity and education, the importance of “making good art”, the impact of body language on success, the puzzle of motivation, the importance of pursuing one’s passion, and the science of happiness. These videos are shown in both my Business Dynamics course as well as my Management Accounting course. I tell the students that while the videos may have little to do with what we are studying in the course, they may contain the most valuable lesson they will learn all year.

Since I believe strongly in the notion of pursuing your passion, I feel that one of my roles as a teacher is to help students discover and pursue their passions. That passion may be a career on Wall Street or with a Big 4 firm, writing a novel, raising a family, or finishing a marathon. To help students with this process, I have them (at least in Business Dynamics) create a vision board which is a visual collage of their life goals in the areas of career, personal, spiritual, and social. I then have each student present their vision board to the class. It is a great way to get to know the students, both for me and the other students, a chance to suggest what they might do to work towards those goals, and from a practical standpoint, get some practice with public speaking. Research also shows that you are more likely to achieve your goals when you share them with others. While I have not yet tried the vision board exercise in my Management Accounting class, I am doing it with my Cost Accounting students this semester. I think it will be interesting to see how a graduating senior’s vision board compares to a first semester freshmen’s vision board.

You may be wondering, given my mention of using class time for showing TED videos and vision board presentations, that there is no class time left for the actual course material. Such a concern may have been valid 10 years ago, but thanks to technology, my use of class time has become much more efficient, and I believe more effective as well. Textbook publishers’ tools such as Connect and LearnSmart from McGraw Hill and MyAccountingLab from Pearson have enabled me to shift a good deal of learning the material to outside the classroom.

I strongly believe that these tools help place the burden for learning the material on the students (as it should be), enabling them to learn the material more effectively. I can then use class time to concentrate on areas of difficulty (as identified by the learning software tools), talk about the real world applications of the material, and to focus on holistic learning through the use of TED videos and vision board presentations.

I also try and follow what I have heard is a learning approach used in medical school for many classes. I have all of my classes videotaped so that students can watch them at any time. I do not take attendance in any of my classes, and tell my students the decision to come to class or not is completely up to them. They are adults and need to learn time management and what is the best way for them to learn. There is also a management approach known as ROWE, the results only work environment. Workers are not evaluated on details such as showing up late or being absent, but simply on the results they generate. I think there is room for such an approach with college students.

Again, before you get the idea that nobody shows up for my classes, and when they do, that the class is complete chaos, the vast majority of students come to class every day. (If I did begin to notice a significant drop in class attendance, I would view that as a signal that I need to up my game in the classroom). The students are grateful for the video recordings for when they do miss a class because of an illness or interview, or when they are preparing for a test. I strongly believe every faculty member should take advantage of such a technology.

In summary, I try to take a holistic view of the teaching and learning process. Technology has enabled me to use class time to not only help students with the course content but with their personal growth as well, leading to better outcomes both in the short-term and long-term.

Note: I realize this is way too long for the actual statement on teaching philosophy I need to submit, but this post has enabled me to get my thoughts out, and now I can concentrate on making it more concise and thoughtful. Any feedback is appreciated!

Fear of Falling


Yesterday’s New York Times had a story about the far-reaching effects of falling.

The article notes that while young children fall more than any other age group, the consequences are usually just minor cuts and bruises. However, among the elderly, the consequences of a fall can be devastating.

Data shows that about 40 percent of those aged 65 and older fall at least once a year; one in 40 of them ends up in the hospital, after which only half are still alive a year later. Put another way, out of 200 people over the age of 65, 80 of those individuals will fall at least once per year. Out of those 80, 2 of them will be hospitalized, and only one of them will still be alive a year later.

Our family has had personal experiences with the negative impact of falling. My mom fell down the last few steps in her house about 11 years ago. She was 78 years old at the time, but in reasonably good health. However, after that fall she was never quite the same. She has been using a walker since, her energy level has dropped, she isn’t able to get out as much as she used to, and she has had a couple of falls. While her advanced age certainly plays a role, she has a good deal of difficulty completing what is often referred to as ADL, or activities of daily living. To me, much of her decline can be traced to that tumble down the steps several years ago.

In addition to her decreased physical abilities, she has also developed a strong fear of falling. This is not surprising, and in the New York Times article it is noted that such a fear can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Reducing one’s activity level because of a fear of falling may lead to a loss of muscle tone, balance and bone density, leading to a greater chance of falling.

And then just two weeks ago my Aunt slipped on some ice and ended up breaking her hip. She’s 79 years old and looking at a long recovery.

The New York Times article also brought back  memories of a paper I had written almost 10 years ago on the dangers of falling, the fear of falling, and how to prevent such problems among the elderly. The paper was for a course in the Design of Exercise Programs for Special Populations, with the elderly as one of the special populations.

We were required to develop a sample class for our targeted population, and I thought I would share it here, as a public service message, to get the word out about the importance of balance training for the elderly. I’ve added some updates to what I would do now with such a program, based on a few more years of knowledge and experience. The updates are in bold.

First, a couple of notes to give some clarity to the exercise program described below. The course was part of an Associates Degree program in Health and Fitness Promotion at the local community college. I wrote in the beginning of the paper that my wife and I planned to retire to Hilton Head in a few years, and I was interested in starting a business related to fitness. I came up with what I thought was a clever name for the business: SURFing at the Beach: Stopping Unnecessary Risks of Falling.

Balance Training Program for the Elderly

Warm-up (5 minutes) Given that the beaches in Hilton Head offer the ability ride a bike, class would begin with a slow, gentle ride on incumbent bikes (3-wheeled) down the beach for about ¼ mile, and then a turnaround and return to the starting point. Instructors would ride along with the participants for companionship, safety, and information gathering (how are they feeling that day, observations of their performance, etc.). Riding on the beach should offer a pleasant start to the class.

Resistance training (10 minutes) The resistance part of the program would use exercise bands. Such bands allow for full range of motion while performing the exercises, resistance levels that everyone in the class can accommodate (as well as the ability to increase the level as the participants become stronger), and can be used in any environment. There would be six “workstations” available, which would consist of the following: a beach chair, a tent pole, and a set of exercise bands. The chairs and the poles would all be securely anchored in the sand. There will be approximately 8-10 exercises completed in this phase, with a  primary focus on the core and lower body. The exercises would be performed in one set of 10-15 repetitions. The exercises would be designed so that there is little transition time from one exercise to another. Thus, I would estimate that each exercise would take about 40 seconds, with 20 seconds for transition. (Note: I have never actually used exercise bands, but I have been reading quite extensively on their benefits recently, and they seem ideal, not only in this situation, but for older adults in general. I have asked for a complete set of bands for Christmas, so at that point I can begin to gain some hands on experience and would have a better feel for the specific set of exercises and how hard it will be to transition from one exercise to another. I can’t wait until Christmas morning!) I did get exercise bands for Christmas, and I am a big fan of them, particularly for rehab type work.

Balance exercises (10 minutes). This would consist of a series of exercises performed on an exercise ball. While there is some risk of falling off an exercise ball, I believe that the beach offers some advantages over a typical classroom environment. First, if a participant does fall, the sand offers a relatively soft cushion, particularly when the fall would only be from the height of an exercise ball. In addition, for those who have problem maintaining their balance on the ball, the ball could be anchored somewhat in the sand to prevent from rolling too much in any direction. This should offer some level of comfort for anyone who has a fear of falling off of the ball. For those who are reluctant to use the ball, a modified set of exercises will be designed to be completed using the beach chair. (As with the exercise bands, I have limited experience with an exercise ball, but from I have been reading, they are quite useful for developing a person’s balance and stability. At some point, I do plan to gain some hands-on experience with the use of exercise balls.) I have gotten some experience with using an exercise ball since then, and this suggestion is just crazy! There are much better devices for working on balance without the risk that would accompany a medicine ball. Can you imagine a 70 year old trying to stand on an exercise ball, on the beach??!! Ah, the naivete of the young (I was 48 years old…)

Aerobic/endurance training (15 minutes) This portion of the class will consist of about a 2-mile bike ride on the beach (I could be way off in my estimate of the distance, but I assumed about an 8-minutes per mile pace. The distance is not as relevant as the time. In addition, participants will be able to monitor their improvements each class by how far they travel within the 15 minute time period.) To break up the possible monotony, cones will be placed on the beach at various intervals to give the ride more of a slalom-type feel, as well as help the participants to use their judgment to weave through the cones.

Balance exercises (10 minutes) This set of balance exercises would once again take advantage of the unique environment in which this class is offered. This part of the program would consist of balance exercises performed while standing in the sand (standing on one foot, walking heel-to-heel, etc.) Since the sand offers varying levels of gradation, this would offer the ability to easily modify the level of difficulty of the exercises. As the participants become more adept at the exercises, they could move to where the sand is more uneven (not as tightly packed), and perhaps even to the edge of the water, where the movement of the waves in and out would also add a level of difficulty to the exercises. In addition, some of the exercises could be performed with the eyes closed, to work on the vestibular systems of the participants. I got excited when I saw mention in the New York Times article about doing some balance training with your eyes closed. Also, how impressive-sounding is the word “vestibular”!

Stretching exercise (5 minutes) This portion of the program will consist of some gentle stretches, now that everyone’s muscles and joints are sufficiently warm. The stretches will be done on an exercise mat (provided), standing, and in the beach chair. Once again, the focus will be on the core and lower body, since the overall purpose is to help improve the stability of the participants.

Cool down (5 minutes) Class would end with a slow, gentle ride on incumbent bikes (3-wheeled) down the beach for about ¼ mile, and then a turnaround and return to the starting point. Instructors would ride along with the participants for companionship, safety, and information gathering (how they are feeling after the class, observations of their performance, what they liked and did not like about class, reminders about the next class, etc.). Riding on the beach should offer a pleasant way to end the class.

So there you have it, SURFing at the beach. And for anyone who has read this far, I’ll offer you a free week of SURFing if you sign up for the class. You’re just going to have to wait about eight years to redeem that offer, and instead of Hilton Head, we’re now considering Sarasota, FL. But who knows, the idea could take off and we’ll have locations at beaches up and down the coast.

I’ll just have to weigh my desire for an enjoyable retirement against a desire to provide a useful service to as many people as I can.

As with SURFing at the beach, it will come down to finding the right balance.

My Favorite New Commercials

bleachitawayI’m a big fan of great commercials. Commercials are like the tweets of the video world, trying to get their message across in less than one minute. I keep a list of my favorite commercials ( for when I talk about advertising in my class), so perhaps I’ll start going through that list and sporadically share those commercials on this blog.

But in the meantime, I just came across these two commercials from Clorox and I loved them. Perhaps it’s because my wife and I raised three boys and can relate to the underlying theme.

There’s humor in each of the videos, effective product placement, and a memorable catch phrase as well. You couldn’t ask for more from a commercial.

And all this in just 15 seconds!


Why I Blog


It started as a challenge, more specifically the WriteandRun31 Challenge started by Matt Frazier and Christine Frazier.

The idea behind the challenge was to write and run every day for the month of January. Since I have often thought about starting a blog, I thought I would give this a shot.

Once January ended I decided to keep on blogging, and now all of a sudden it’s March 8, making this my 67th straight day of blogging. While I am proud of the streak, I realize that compared to some other blogs it’s small potatoes.

Seth Godin has been blogging almost every day since January 2002. His first blog post was about how bored he was shopping that day, except for the Apple store he visited (how prophetic!).

Fred Wilson has posted to his blog every day since September 23, 2003. His first blog post provided some background on himself and his venture into blogging.

David Kanigan has been posting nearly every day since October 2011. His first blog post was a take on the classic “Hello, world”,  which by tradition is  often used to illustrate to beginners the most basic syntax of a programming language.

The reason for linking to each of their first blog posts is to show that they all had to begin somewhere. And then by the simple act (well some days it’s not so simple, at least for me) of posting something every day, several years later they have created an impressive body of work, developed an engaged group of readers, improved their writing, and shared their thoughts with the world.

I read their blogs every day, finding their posts informative, entertaining, and inspirational.

I realize I am not even close to their blogging productivity and success, but that’s no reason to not blog, to not share my voice with the world. As Fred Wilson pointed out in his first post, he had no idea if he would do it every day or rarely, but 11 years later it’s obvious which path he chose.

So my hope is that I am on that same path, that 10 years from now I will be able to look back at my first blog post and be proud of how far I’ve come, proud of having persisted in completing the simple act of having posted something every day. At least I hope it gets a little simpler by then.

And as to why I blog, I can’t say it any better than Seth:

Well, I think the most important thing to understand about blogging is that if you are blogging for other people you are going to be disappointed. Even if no one would read it I would still blog. And the people I know who blog passionately, all of them say exactly the same thing. So that is the way you have to look at it, you can’t say: “I’m not getting enough comments I’m not going to blog. I’m not getting enough money, I’m not going to blog.” You have to say: “this is a great chance for me to clear my thoughts and put them into the world, what an opportunity.”

Reader Comments and Questions


My mailbox is overflowing once again, and I apologize that I am not able to answer all your emails and comments personally.

Dear Jim, Have you noticed any changes in your life since you started blogging on a daily basis?
Signed, Curious George

Dear Curious, There have been a few changes, some good, some not so good. The good changes include

  • making new online friends
  • having something to tweet about besides the Wall Street Journal
  • no longer feeling guilty when assigning a project to students that entails creating a blog site and posting
  • lower water bills since I haven’t had time to shower (see below) or change my clothes (no laundry)
  • improved riting skills.

The bad changes:

  • I’ve gained about 10 pounds from sitting at the computer all day trying to come up with something original to write for my blog.
  • I’ve become less sanitary since I’ve had no time to shower because I spend all my time blogging.
  • I’ve had to buy a new keyboard because of all the crumbs I’ve gotten on it from constantly eating while writing my blog.
  • I think I’ve fallen behind in paying my bills, but I’m not sure because I’ve had no time to check the mail.
  • My social life has become non-existent (actually, that’s not much of a change).
  • I’ve fallen asleep in the middle of a couple of lectures because of the lack of sleep from all the time I spend writing my blog (but in my defense, they were lectures about accounting).

So all in all, the good stuff about blogging far outweighs the bad stuff (confirmation bias alert).

Dear Jim, It seems like you are pretty high on Bitcoin. Do you think now is a good time to buy some?
Signed, Buzzcoin

Dear Buzzcoin, I’ve been high a few times, but never on Bitcoin. If you’re looking to get high, Colorado has much better options than Bitcoin.

Dear Jim, I’ve Seen your picture ID from high school, and it was pretty bad, probably one of the worst high school pictures I’ve ever seen. I was wondering if you’re still kind of odd looking.
Signed, I Don’t Blog But At Least I’m Photogenic


Dear Photogenic, I think I’ve turned out OK.


It’s amazing what contact lenses can do…

Dear Jim, You do realize that your photo editing skills are pretty weak …
Signed, Tom Knoll, creator of Photoshop

Dear Tom, I don’t know what you are talking about, and besides, who are you to talk about someone’s photo editing skills?

The SPICES of Life


Villanova University has an outstanding Office of Health Promotion. Its mission (from its website) is “to provide evidence-based health resources, facilitate opportunities for students to build skills that empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to instill a sense of personal responsibility for individual health and its impact on the health of the community.”

Student can find information on topics such as the effects of alcohol, how to help a drunken friend, body image, sleep, sexual assault, nutrition, fitness, relationships, stress management, financial health, and tobacco cessation.

In addition, students can be trained to become peer counselors/educators, which enables them to promote health awareness on campus, offer seminars on a topic of their choice, and act as positive role models for other students.

But what I like most about the Office of Health Promotion is its approach to health, known by the acronym SPICES.

SPICES represents the six dimensions of health: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, Emotional, and Social.

Our current president, Father Peter Donohue, even stressed these ideas in his inauguration speech in 2006:

We must emphasize a holistic approach to education and acknowledge that there are many aspects of the university that contribute to the process of creation. It is our responsibility to form the total person: Intellectually, Emotionally, Spiritually, Culturally, Socially and Physically. The center of the university needs to be an intellectual center. Our library needs to be refashioned to become a storehouse of knowledge from which everything radiates. Our classrooms must come to the residence halls and our residence halls must inform the classroom. Our expressions of faith should enliven our work. Our student life programs need to be extensions of our academic endeavor. Our playing fields transformed into arenas of learning. Our social events should foster respect for people. And we need to build, and I mean build, a center where culture is appreciated and explored. This is a place where we can shape the body, probe the heart and elevate the soul. Villanova prides itself as a liberal arts institution of learning, a place where humanity is examined with an open but critical mind. Therefore, in our search for truth we can never renounce the liberal or ignore the arts.”

I can’t imagine a better description of the mission of an institution of higher learning, and I love the fact that the Office of Health Promotion takes the President’s words and turns them into its mission.

In business, there is a performance planning and evaluation tool known as the Balanced Scorecard. The Balanced Scorecard is meant to look at multiple measures of performance – financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth. It was developed in response to the fact that most performance measurement systems had focused on just the financial aspect of the business, causing other parts of the business to suffer. While most people would agree that financial performance is the most important measure of the success of a firm, it’s not the only one.

It’s analogous to schools just focusing on academic performance; while that is the most important objective of the educational process, it should not be the only objective.

By taking a more holistic view of the business, the Balanced Scorecard allows managers to look for the causal factors of improved financial performance, such as a more engaged workforce, more efficient operations, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. If a manager is evaluated and rewarded on multiple measures related to such outcomes, then he or she will act in a way that improves the operations of the firm, leading to improved financial performance.

It’s the same at Villanova. If a student can take a holistic, SPICES-based approach to his or her education, and not just concentrate on the academic side of the process, the result will be a graduate who is better prepared to live a happier and healthier life.

And this approach to life and health is not  just helpful for college students.

We could all add some zest to our life by setting goals in each of the six SPICES.

Bon appetit!