I flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia, thrilled that our program “Strengths Quest and Woo—Especially if New” was selected for presentation at the first International Strengths Conference. The content of the presentation focused on our commitment to strengths based development and too, the successes and challenges launching a new program.
I was a bit out of my element. This was a group of educators with whom I’d not interacted. They uniformly did not travel in the Student Affairs circles I have, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). It was cool to be presenting our new program, with new colleagues, in this incredibly beautiful place.
The Loyola University New Orleans presentation focused on an overview of New Orleans, our university’s distinctive Jesuit, Catholic mission, the development of Strengths Quest on campus, current uses of Strengths Quest and plans for deeper integration.
The audience was most interested in our Jesuit values and how as an institution we seek avenues to teach and model values to our students. Interestingly, the Jesuit value of holistic education supports strengths based development and learning. According to Strengths authors Clifton & Harter, the strengths philosophy is as follows: “individuals gain more when they build on their talents, than when they make comparable efforts to improve their areas of weakness.” (2003) The premise of strengths based development is “to enable students to discover, develop, and apply strengths in academics, career, and beyond.” The Gallup Organization, 2004
The Loyola University Student Affairs strengths based development program asserts:
- A distinctive grouping of talents exists within you.
- Your greatest talents hold the key to high achievement, success, and progress to levels of personal excellence.
- Becoming aware of your talents builds confidence and provides a basis for achievement.
- Learning how to develop and apply strengths will improve your levels of achievement.
- Each of your talents can be applied in many areas including relationships, learning, academics, leadership, service and careers. (Gallup’s StrengthQuest Program, Jim Hull)
Loyola University Student Affairs objectives for launching strengths based development with our students:
- Identify talents and encourage awareness regarding personal strengths.
- Approach all aspects of achievement from strengths based development.
- Affirm innate strengths in both curricular and co-curricular areas.
- Increase engagement with the campus.
- Highlight the Formula for Success: Strengths = Talent + Knowledge + Skill (Gallup’s Implementing Strengths, Sondra Cave)
In the presentation, I shared that at Loyola we’ve identified talents with over 1300 First Year students to date. Our 2012 class has the following top five strengths: Adaptability; Input; Restorative; Strategic; and Achiever. Our 2013 class has these top five strengths: Adaptability; Input; Strategic; Achiever and Communication. This information tells us that both classes of students have talents that indicate: (Adaptability) living in the now, go with the flow; (Input) knowledgeable, crave information; (Strategic) likely to ask ‘what if’ questions inside and outside the classroom; (Achiever) high work ethic, leads by example; (Restorative) problem solver and trouble shooter; (Communication) story tellers, energizing. All of this information helps form our co-curricular programming, leadership development, and opportunities for service.
Programs I attended at the conference:
- The Positive Campus: How Strengths, Hope, and Well-Being Change People –and Change Lives- Shane Lopez, Senior Scientist in Residence, Gallup
- Nova Scotia Community College: Embracing the Strengths Journey- Joan McArthure-Blair, President
- Teaching Your Staff How to Implement Strengths Into the First Year Experience- Sondra Cave, Director of First Year Experience, Nazarene University
- Creating Moments That Matter For Students: 60 in 60- Idalynn Karee, Associate Director, The CHAIR Academy
- Academic Support Services: A Key Partner in Strengths-based Development- Kahki Wunderlich, Dean of Organizational Success and Learning, Tompkins Cortland Community College
- Strengths-based Leadership in Practice: The Value of Strengths-based Approach to Team Effectiveness- Mark Pogue, Vice President, Educational Practice, Gallup
- The Power of Narrative to Inform Our Strengths Journey- Idalynn Karre, Associate Director, The CHAIR Academy
Nova Scotians are very much like southerners; no one is a stranger for long. In fact, I quickly met new, interesting colleagues who took me on a side trip to lovely Mahone Bay. The final evening of the conference was a “Ceilidh”, a lobster fest not unlike our crawfish boils. A Ceilidh (pronounced “Kay-lay”, emphasis on 1st syllable) is many things. It derives from the Gaelic word meaning a visit and originally meant just that (and still does in Gaelic). It can also mean a house party, a concert or more usually an evening of informal Scottish traditional dancing to informal music. (On-line Scotland Guide) The evening was filled with Scottish dancing, music, story telling, good food and lots of laughter.
I look forward to sharing much more with you about Strengths based development, and Gallup’s work on hope and wellness.