Curtis Janz wants to create a culture of service and excellence for student athletes, coaches and staff that is not limited by team or activity, and he is willing to go far beyond the boundaries of sports to do it.
The first-year athletic director started at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith on Aug. 1 after spending more than 20 years at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, Okla.
Janz, 53, said he was willing to make the change because he was impressed by the “striving for excellence in everything going on here.” When he was on campus interviewing for the position, one of the coaches told him they thought UAFS could be the best Division II university in the country.
Now that he’s here, he understands the source of that confidence, and he is making it a goal not to let UAFS be “a well-kept secret.”
Speaking at the end of the first semester about his time on campus, Janz said he was impressed by the quality of the coaching staff and the university’s administrators, whom he described as “extremely good at leadership” and sincerely concerned about students. Likewise he was impressed by the character of the students, not just their athletic ability.
That, he said, was an excellent beginning for the culture he was hoping to develop in the athletics department at UAFS.
Janz believes in his skill to build a culture people can succeed in by setting expectations extremely — but not impossibly — high. Excellence, he believes, is not something people can develop alone, not something a team can develop alone.
Instead, he said, he wants to develop a department-wide culture “of serving one another … and ultimately serving the (department’s) young men and women.”
That culture of excellence and service, once established, will not end at the door of the Stubblefield Center, but instead will be something those young men and women can use athletically, academically, socially and personally.
Each new year, Janz said, is an untraveled road for a team and for the athletics department. Extending the metaphor, he compared the usefulness on that road of a GPS system or a simple compass.
“The GPS is great on the well-traveled road,” he said. “But a compass always points true north.”
He wants every member of his department know what true north is. Actions will be intentional as long as everyone shares the same values.
What is his true north?
Janz credited his mother with helping him understand and develop the culture he wants to teach.
- To love without limits.
- To serve the university and the student athletes.
- To grow in ways guaranteed to improve the department and the self.
It’s all part of a bigger picture to Janz.
“Ideally, the community and the university will be a reflection of each other,” he said, comparing the profusion of murals and other signs of revitalization in downtown Fort Smith with the Windgate Art & Design building and the RAWC, the student-supported Recreation and Wellness Center on campus.
What matters is working toward the same ends: service and excellence.