Building a Wall – One Brick at a Time

by John Usher, Associate Dean

It just seems like the end of the year comes so fast.  I think the problem I have with it, is that it forces me to take stock of what was accomplished during the year, and I always feel that I could have done more. I’m sure lots of people feel the same way.  However, when I look back over 2013, I can see lots of great things that got done collectively at UofL and Speed, including some outstanding faculty hires, a new strategic plan, great success for our student teams in a variety of national competitions, numerous faculty awards, fantastic research results, a record number of top-notch students enrolled, and even national championship in basketball and a Sugar Bowl victory. Sometimes however, while changes are happening they are hard to detect in the chaos of the daily grind. It is only after some time passes that you can see and appreciate the true effect.  A lesson I always convey to students in my Quality Control class, is that improving a really complex system can often be best done by making slow and steady changes, like building a brick wall, one brick at a time.  I’m sure at the start, the brick layers feel overwhelmed with the amount of bricks to be laid.  But after some time and a lot of hard work, they can step back and be extremely proud of the wall that they built.  In fact, in the book Working, by Studs Terkel, bricklayers and stone masons are reported to be among the most satisfied workers in America, because they (and others) can see and admire the results of their work for years.  We all need to take that lesson to heart, as we try to make Speed School a better place to educate students.  So as 2013 closes, all of us here at Speed need to, step back, take a breath, admire the wall we have built so far, and then get back to work in 2014 laying more bricks. 


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