SOU has borrowed from the somewhat mischievous military tradition of the “challenge coin” to recognize service excellence on campus and support the university’s Strategic Direction II: to become an employer of choice and create a culture of service excellence to all constituents.
“Service Excellence coins” have been presented to a total of 11 SOU employees over the past couple months – most recently and visibly, to Churchill Hall administrative assistant Kathy Park during last week’s meeting of the SOU Board of Trustees.
“She’s a classic unsung hero – one of those many employees working hard, mostly behind the scenes – and she does a great job,” says Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Perkinson, who joined President Linda Schott and Board of Trustees Chair Lyn Hennion in surprising Kathy with the award.
“Giving her that round metal object – also known as a coin – is just a way of saying thanks.”
The origin of military challenge coins is a little hazy, but the Wikipedia version involves an American pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines in World War I, made his way to a French outpost and narrowly avoided execution as a spy by showing his unit’s medallion.
The military tradition of carrying specific unit medallions or coins grew. It started as a way to reinforce pride in the military unit, then morphed into a way for military commanders to recognize excellence. One member of a unit can also challenge another member to show his or her coin at any time.
Perkinson says the coins are being used by senior leaders at SOU to reward outstanding achievement, attitude or behavior, and to help build a culture of service excellence across campus. They are sometimes awarded privately, with a handshake and a thank-you, and sometimes more formally or publicly – as was the case at last week’s board meeting.
The face of the coins bear an SOU emblem and the back is inscribed with four of the elements that have been identified as critical in promoting service excellence at SOU: knowledge, teamwork, accountability and quality service.