Moving Toward a Culture of Strengths
At Weber State University, students take the lead in bringing strengths to life
The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but it might not be the best or most interesting route. Since Weber State University (WSU) started its strengths journey three years ago, it has taken a unique path to bring strengths to campus — and students have taken the lead.
“We’ve done it a little differently here at Weber,” says Aaron Newman, director of leadership and governance and assistant director of student involvement and leadership. “Initially, we tried to grow among the staff and with the faculty and human resources. But the [growth] really happened when the students started getting involved. They really fell in love with this philosophy — heart and soul.”
Students in the LEAD
To build on the students’ energy and enthusiasm, Newman and Hanalee Hawkins, a prevention specialist with WSU’s drug and alcohol education program and Newman’s partner in developing the program, shifted their focus to organizing workshops for students. Soon, clubs and organizations on campus were clamoring for presentations on strengths. “It snowballed to where we were doing so many presentations, we had to create a team,” says Newman. Because students were the source of the momentum, it made sense to enlist them as trainers. “So we developed what we called our LEAD team — Lead, Educate, and Develop,” says Newman.
To train new team members, Newman and Hawkins bring in their Gallup partner, Tom Matson, to conduct strengths learning, including sessions of the StrengthsQuest Educator Seminar, StrengthsQuest Mentoring and Advising Program, and Leadership StrengthsQuest. Following training, team members meet weekly to coordinate activities and continue their strengths development. Members keep a strengths journal and share what they have observed through the week with a strengths partner. They also take turns presenting to the group, and they mentor and challenge each other.
Members of the LEAD team make a two-year commitment to the program, serving as apprentices the first year and senior trainers the second. Many continue with the team until they graduate. The team started with four members, but now 18 members serve as campus experts on strengths. Members of the LEAD team receive a tuition waiver in return for their service, and competition for the positions is fierce — this year, 45 students applied for 18 available positions.
The language of strengths
The team has grown because demand for their services has grown on campus. As WSU students became more excited about strengths, “the faculty started to take notice,” says Newman. Soon faculty members were calling Newman and Hawkins, asking to integrate strengths in their courses. “Right now, 16 courses are tying in StrengthsQuest as part of their curriculum, and we’re looking at about 50 for next semester,” says Newman.
In addition to presenting in classrooms, the LEAD team has developed 12 distinct workshops that are open to all students; team members also provide one-on-one mentoring in strengths development. Workshops begin with Level 1 (an introduction to Positive Psychology and strengths) and Level 2 (an in-depth exploration of an individual’s strengths). Other workshops focus on using strengths to be a better leader, how strengths relate to team dynamics, and strengths and wellbeing.
WSU has a diverse student body, and Newman, Hawkins, and the LEAD team members have developed innovative programming to bring the language of strengths to life for all students. The LEAD team includes two team members who can present in Spanish to the WSU Latino community. The team also has focused on ways to get more international students involved in strengths programs. “The number-one [international] language on our campus is Arabic,” says Newman. To meet the needs of the Arabic speakers, they asked Yousef Alawadhi, a student who joined LEAD team at its beginning, to present Level 1 and Level 2 courses in Arabic.
At first, Alawadhi used the standard curriculum, translating the presentation into Arabic. But the program didn’t resonate with the students. “It didn’t work,” says Newman. “The stories just didn’t translate. The experiences didn’t translate.” So Alawadhi reworked the curriculum, bringing in stories and examples that were familiar to his audience. To date, about 800 Saudi and Kuwaiti students have participated in StrengthsQuest programs, and the success of the Arabic program has attracted the attention of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission.
Student involvement and leadership
How has WSU come so far, so fast? One key has been the partnership between Newman and Hawkins — and their strong relationship with Matson. As Newman says, he and Hawkins make a good team because “we really are the complete opposite — my top five themes are her bottom five themes, and vice versa. And we have a lot of questions, and Tom’s always been there to answer them.”
But perhaps the most important element in WSU’s success has been the strengths team’s willingness to follow its own path in bringing strengths to the campus community, and its ability to create and adapt the program to meet its needs. That starts with “getting the students on board,” says Newman. “Listen to what they think. They’ll give you a ton of advice about how to make [your program] better. Because they can make it applicable to other students, probably better than any of us could.”
Learn more about Weber State University’s StrengthsQuest program
Opportunities for Strengths-Based Learning
Strengths in Education Conference: The 2012 conference will feature outstanding learning opportunities, including presentations by renowned speaker Sir Ken Robinson and Gallup Senior Scientist Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D.
Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized expert on education, creativity, and innovation, will present the keynote at the summer Strengths in Education Conference. The videos of his presentations at the 2006 and 2010 TED Conference have been widely distributed on the Web since their release.
Dr. Lopez will explore why people go to college and how college gets the ready for success in the workplace.
Learn more about the conference or register now
StrengthsQuest Courses Merging With Clifton Strengths School
The StrengthsQuest team is pleased to announce that we are integrating our learning and development offerings for educators with Clifton Strengths School. This integration will bring changes to the course names of our current offerings — and will bring additional offerings in the future. What will not change is our focus on bringing you in-depth, insightful, and actionable learning opportunities that will help you bring a strengths-based approach to your school or campus.
New course: CSS 303HE-GLP: Great Leader Program: In this cutting-edge developmental program, you will gain a greater understanding of yourself, your talents, and your leadership style. You’ll learn concepts, strategies, and tools that will help you apply the Four Keys to Great Leadership to your role, partnerships, and team. We invite campus leaders who directly manage others in the workplace to attend this one-day program, which will help you to better engage your team members based on their talents. For more information on the Great Leader Program, contact Melissa Hinrichs or Kyle Robinson.
Name changes: StrengthsQuest courses will now be part of the Clifton Strengths School higher education course offerings. Look for these courses under their new names:
- StrengthsQuest Educator Seminar becomes CSS 101HE-Strengths Educator for Higher Education
- MAP StrengthsQuest becomes CSS 200HE-MAP: Mentoring and Advising Program
Price changes — last chance to register at current prices: As of July 1, 2012, prices for these courses will increase. Register now for an upcoming session to attend at the lower price. See details in the Schedule/Registration area below.
Visit our newly stocked Gallup Store site for two pages of ideas and items to recognize individuals on your campus.
Visit the StrengthsQuest area in the Gallup Store
Ordering StrengthsQuest and Gaining Admin Access
- Do you need to order more StrengthsQuest codes, cards, or books? Visit thePurchase area on the StrengthsQuest website.
- To receive access to the Admin area of the site after you purchase codes and receive your order, email your StrengthsQuest username and BUID toStrengthsInfo@gallup.com.
We’re committed to your strengths development. To learn more about Gallup Education conferences, seminars, webinars, and other learning opportunities, check the listing below.
New events and dates are added frequently. For a full list of our learning opportunities, visit theEvents & Training page on the StrengthsQuest website or the Clifton Strengths School site.